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WILLIAM MORRIS 




J. BRUCK GI.ASIKR, at work in his Study, May 14lh, 1920. 

From a Snapshot ly Mrs. M'right-RoHnsoKi enlarged 
and reproduced by Fredk. Hollyer. 



WILLIAM MORRIS 

AND THE EARLY DAYS OF THE 
SOCIALIST MOVEMENT 



BEING REMINISCENCES OF MORRIS' WORK AS 
A PROPAGANDIST, AND OBSERVATIONS ON 
HIS CHARACTER AND GENIUS, WITH SOME 
ACCOUNT OF THE PERSONS AND CIRCUM- 
STANCES OF THE EARLY SOCIALIST AGITATION 

TOGETHER WITH A SERIES 
OF LETTERS ADDRESSED BY 
MORRIS TO THE AUTHOR 

BY 

J. BRUCE GLASIER 



WITH A PREFACE BY 

MAY MORRIS 



WITH TWO PORTRAITS 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON, E.G. 4 

FOURTH AVENUE & 3ora STREET, NEW YORK 
BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, AND MADRAS 

1921 



V 

h 



\ 



JJ 



PREFACE 

THE most fitting introduction to the pages that follow 
would be Bruce Glasier's own words in an article called 
* Why I am a Socialist.' He is describing his early life 
when during the summer months he kept his father's 
sheep on the braes of Kyle : * Then came the days of 
herding, with Burns's poems turned over page by page 
among the heather, and the never-ceasing song of the 
streams down the glens.' 1 

The whole passage too long to quote is steeped in 
the wonder of wild places ; he who wrote it and possessed 
this memory of romance had the poet's heart, the poet's 
vision, and when, before mid-life, a treasure of friendship 
came to him, it was a gift for which he was spiritually 
prepared, prized at its full value. What he gave in return 
for the pure joy that the friendship with William Morris 
brought into his life can be judged in reading the memories 
written here. The man of Scottish and Highland blood 
and he of the Welsh kin had much in common ; both 
gave unconsciously, with the simplicity of wise children, 
and to us who look back and begin to see their lives in 
due proportion, the record of such kindliness, such stead- 
fastness, as united these two men in their labour for the 
common good, is something to rejoice over. For surely 
if ever an earthly love was illumined with light from the 
Unknown, it was the affection that Bruce Glasier bore 
my father. The feeling was neither blind nor uncritical, 
nor does it show in the younger man any abnegation of 
independence of spirit. In one of the last letters Bruce 
wrote to me, he says : * I know I must have tried his 

1 Labour Leader, i June 1906. 



vi WILLIAM MORRIS 

patience sorely many a time, for I was a wee bit wild and 
boisterous in those days, and though I loved and indeed 
worshipped him as the greatest man then bearing us 
company on earth, our Socialist League equalitarian 
ideas sometimes led us into foolish affectations of almost 
irreverence. But his generous heart forgave us all.' 

Glasier had been for some years busied with Socialist 
lecturing when my father became acquainted with the 
Scottish circle in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the meeting 
with this * half-mythical being,' who was pictured by the 
ingenuous young men as leading an Arcadian life in the 
world of poetry and art down South, was to them an exciting 
event. When the hero comes out of the clouds and stands 
before his admirers as a man and a good comrade, there is 
danger of disappointment, of a sense of disillusion. But in 
this case there was no shadow : indeed, the light of reality 
shone more warmly and happily, and Glasier writes with 
a sort of epic directness of the first meeting with the poet, 
and at once gives the keynote of the story he tells us : 
' I felt as one enriched with a great possession.' 

It is worth while attempting to get the full significance 
of such words, uttered by one who had spent his life as 
a young man in the grey atmosphere of Scottish manu- 
facturing centres, dedicating every possible moment to the 
cause he had at heart : it meant the release of pent-up 
thoughts, the splendid proclaiming by a master-voice of 
one's own inarticulate ideals ; it was indeed the blossoming 
of the wilderness. 

The chapter on Glasgow in the Dawn is, to my mind, 
of the greatest interest, approaching the subject from the 
standpoint of a man in the centre of the Labour movement, 
with outlook and values professedly not those of the student. 
We get a series of intimate pictures of the Socialist doings 
of those days, as they might impress Bruce's friends who were 
either themselves of the working-class, or had cast in their 
lot with that of Labour. From first to last, indeed, the 
volume has this special weight : it is the story of that 



PREFACE vii 

particular phase of British Socialism, told in vivid glimpses 
by a single-hearted apostle of the cause himself a poet and 
4 dreamer ' told in plain language to his fellows, the men 
with whom he lived and worked and whom he has largely 
influenced by his force of character. For me it must always 
have a special value for the simple and serious expression of 
that unmoved affection which so coloured his life. 

But this book does more than tell the story of a 
particular phase of Socialism in this country ; it has a wider 
and more permanent value. British Socialism is not a 
purely materialistic criticism of economic theory ; behind it 
there is a basis of ethical criticism and theory. Marxian 
economics apart from Marx's historical survey is little 
read or understood except by his foreign disciples. William 
Morris's criticism of modern society and his revolt against 
it was fundamentally ethical, and the tremendous import 
of his teaching depended upon his experience as poet and 
artist. * It must always be remembered that behind and 
deeper than all political and economic Socialism there is 
somewhere present, giving vitality to the theory, just that 
criticism of life, that demand for freedom and beauty, that 
craving for fellowship and joy in creative work, that revolt 
against sordidness, misery, and ugliness of a cramped existence, 
which Morris so gloriously and with such magnificent 
humanity expressed. Morris had the heart of Socialism, 
and no critic has answered him yet.' x But because his 
teaching was not purely economic, his influence on current 
Socialistic teaching is likely to be overlooked by historians, 
whereas there is not one of the older Socialist leaders who 
has not come under his personal influence to a greater or 
less extent, and this book gives an experience which was 
repeated in some degree all over the country in his many 
lecturing tours. Not everywhere was there a follower so 
prepared to profit by his opportunities, but nowhere was 
the teaching entirely without result. 

1 Dr. Mellor, in Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 
art. Socialism. 



viii WILLIAM MORRIS 

Morris's teaching was in truth no new departure ; it 
was a continuation of the British Socialist tradition (as 
compared with the French, or the Italian or German), 
but he carried it to a higher point and set a permanent 
mark on it, as these memories help to show. 

In what estimation William Morris held his Scottish 
friend will be gathered in the letters which are included 
at the end of the volume. He stood high in my father's 
confidence, and in those stormy days, when sordid quarrels 
perforce wasted the time of men who were meant for better 
things, Bruce was one to be relied on for his loyalty and 
steadiness of purpose a comfort and solace to that unwilling 
leader of turbulent spirits. 

In some of the letters, Morris's standpoint between the 
Parliamentarian Socialists and the Anarchists is brought 
out clearly, and, as he has been claimed by both parties, 
it is well to have the story of it now given definitely in his 
own words. It is well, too, that those who in future days 
may be interested in his life and thought should know that 
he saw the drawbacks faults, weaknesses, what you will 
of both parties, and declined to be committed to theories 
and acts he did not accept. 

In writing to friends about this proposed volume, 
Glasier showed diffidence and hesitation ; ' lest I might 
unwittingly in any way deface your Father's image,' he 
told me in one letter. ' But,' he added, * it has been borne 
in upon my mind that I ought not to allow my recollection of 
these wonderful days with your Father to perish with me.' 
And so, having taken leave of a busy life that had become 
more and more dedicated to lecturing and writing in the 
cause of Socialism, he set to work. In the last protracted 
illness, in an atmosphere of unclouded serenity, this active 
spirit, though rejoicing in the coming freedom, did not allow 
itself to waste precious hours in contemplation ; till the 
last, Glasier went on writing untiringly. * The Meaning 
of Socialism ' was finished before ' William Morris and the 
Early Days of the Socialist Movement ' was written, and 



PREFACE ix 

the last of his literary work, besides articles for the weekly 
Labour Leader, was the preparation of a volume of poems 
of various dates. 

Of the satisfaction of leaving practically completed this 
tribute to his friend and teacher I will say nothing. There 
are moments in a man's life that one cannot intrude upon, 
though Glasier himself has allowed us a glimpse of what 
this meant to him. 

Something of the beauty of Glasier's character is shown 
unconsciously in these pages, his integrity, loyalty, un- 
swerving sense of duty, his disinterestedness in labouring 
for no material reward, besides the lighter qualities, his 
comradeship and good humour, his sense of fun and enjoy- 
ment of adventure all the things that endeared him to my 
father. Indeed, the work breathes of the unaffected, 
unselfish spirit of the man, and scarcely calls for any such 
introducing words. But in writing them, two pictures 
linger persistently and unbidden in my mind : first, the 
young lad lying on the braes, drinking in the poetry of sky 
and earth, welcoming life and its riddle ; then, the man of 
middle age, sitting at a desk with bowed head, writing on 
the blotted page his lament over the dead hero. The song 
of youth and the lament are now alike part of a story, and 
in the picture of Glasier that accompanies this volume, 
where he lies freed of all questionings and all griefs, some- 
thing may be divined of the calm peace and expectancy 
with which he waited for the future. 

MAY MORRIS 

KELMSCOTT, 
January 1921. 



CONTENTS 



PREFACE BY MAY MORRIS . .' 
I. INTRODUCTION , '. . . 

II. THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE . . 

III. FIRST MEETING WITH MORRIS 

IV. GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 

V. His COMRADESHIP : TRAITS AND INCIDENTS . 
VI. FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 
VII. A PICNIC ON THE THAMES .... 
VIII. A RED-LETTER DAY . 
IX. A PROPAGANDA OUTING . . . 
X. EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS AND AFTER 
XI. As GUEST AND COMPANION .... 
XII. CAMPAIGNING DAY AT HAMMERSMITH . 

XIII. LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE . . . 

XIV. LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS , . . 
XV. His SOCIALISM : FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 

XVI. CHARACTERISTICS : His PUBLIC SPEAKING 
XVII. SOCIALISM AND RELIGION . . " . 
APPENDIX I. THE ' COMMONWEAL ' . 

II. LETTERS FROM MORRIS, WITH INTRO- 
DUCTION BY J. B. G. . 



FACE 

V 

I 

10 

18 

25 

35 
43 
57 
61 

72 
84 

95 
ill 

122 

131 
I 4 2 

153 

164 
177 

181 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



J. BRUCE GLASIER AT WORK IN HIS STUDY, 

MAY 14, 1920 Frontispiece 

From a Snapshot by Mrs. Wright-Robinson enlarged by 
Fredk. Hollyer. 

WILLIAM MORRIS . . . / . To face p. i 

From a Photograph by Fredk. HoUyer. 




WIM.IAM MORRIS 

h'roiit a Photograph ly 1-rctik. Hollytr 



WILLIAM MORRIS 

AND THE EARLY DAYS OF THE 
SOCIALIST MOVEMENT 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTION 

Think of the joy we have in praising great men, and how we 
turn their stories over and over, and fashion their lives for our 
joy ; and this also we ourselves may give to the world. William 
Morris. (Mackail's Life, i. 334.) 

WILLIAM MORRIS was to my mind one of the greatest men 
of genius this or any other land has ever known. In 
abundance of creative energy and fullness of skill in arts 
and letters it is doubtful if he has ever been excelled. 
Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Albrecht Diirer, and 
the builders of the great medieval cathedrals, are among the 
few master-craftsmen that rank on an equal plane with him 
in respect of the eminence and variety of his gifts. This 
appraisement may perhaps appear an exaggerated one to 
those who are accustomed to regard painting and sculpture 
as the highest, if not the only great, arts ; for Morris 
did not devote himself to painting and sculpture, though 
as a matter of fact he could, and in his earlier days did, 
paint admirably. But to those, and happily they are now 
many, who have a better understanding of art, and who 
see in the industrial and decorative handicrafts scope for 



2 WILLIAM MORRIS 

the highest and most delightful exercise of the imagination 
and skill of eye and hand, the statement will hardly appear 
an extravagant one. 

It was, I think, the late Theodore Watts- Dunton who 
said of Morris that he had accomplished in his life the 
work of at least six men of front-rank literary and artistic 
capacity. This is not mere eulogy. No question has 
ever been raised in Morris' case as to whether he was 
or was not a true poet or a great master of his art. The 
genuineness in quality no less than the remarkable range 
of his accomplishments is acknowledged by all competent 
j udges. 

As a poet he ranks in the great modern constellation 
with Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, 
Browning, and Tennyson. As a prose writer, especially 
of pure romance, he holds a place of his own. He was 
the supreme craftsman of his age. In the arts of the 
design and manufacture of furniture, wall decoration, 
stained glass, book illumination, and book - printing he 
created a new tradition. He rescued these arts from the 
degradation of mere commercialism, revived the best 
observances of old craftsmanship, and pioneered the new. 
In various other crafts arras tapestry, weaving, and 
wood-engraving, for example he attained notable pro- 
ficiency. Nor was he, as many men of creative faculty 
frequently are, careless and incompetent in regard to the 
ordinary affairs, occupations, and amusements of life. He 
took a keen interest and displayed an expert hand in many 
of the often despised tasks of the household, as well as in 
outdoor employments and recreations. He had a good 
understanding of all country matters, and was an angler, 
oarsman, and swimmer. He was a first-rate cook, and 
never was more happy than when, on a house-boat excur- 
sion, he was installed in the cooking galley or the kitchen, 
amidst pots and pans, cooking meals of his own choice for 
his friends. He used to say half-jestingly that he could 
bake bread and brew ale with any farmer's wife in Oxford- 



INTRODUCTION 3 

shire. His knowledge of birds, Mr. Mackail tells us, was 
extraordinary ; and he was continually surprising his 
friends with an unexpected acquaintance with modern 
science and industrial processes which he sometimes affected 
to despise. Unlike many of his literary and artistic friends, 
he took an eager and indeed an absorbing interest in 
politics and all matters relating to the public welfare ; and 
he was, as we know, one of the most ardent propagandists 
and unflinching agitators of his day. 

Morris was not only great as a man of genius and of 
general attainments ; he was great in the high manliness 
and in the amplitude and richness of his nature. The 
impression of strength, of self-sufficiency, of action, of 
great individuality in him was felt by everyone in his 
presence. Among his immediate friends, many of them 
men of remarkable attainments, such as Burne-Jones, 
Philip Webb, Rossetti, Swinburne, and De Morgan, he 
was acknowledged the most masterful personality of them 
all. He occasionally showed a towering temper, but it 
was wholly without malice, and seemed given him merely 
by way of emblasonry. He was singularly unaffected, 
companionable, and good-humoured. There was not a 
particle of acidity or bitterness in him. He was simply 
incapable of cruelty or any act of meanness or oppression, 
of lying or pretence. And while one of the hardest-working, 
and in some respects most seriously minded men of his 
age, he was also full of jollity and boyishness, delighting in 
fun and merry-making, in games and story-telling, and in 
outings with friends. Limitations and even positive defects 
of character he had they were conspicuous enough. But 
these notwithstanding, he had in him such an unusual 
combination of noble and delightful qualities, that he 
stands out as one of the grandest and most attractive per- 
sonalities of our time. 

And forth from his genius and character there sprang 
as a great flower his art, wherein was made manifest the 
word and teaching which, alike by precept and by the 



4 WILLIAM MORRIS 

example of his life, he gave to the world. He taught us 
as no one ever before the lesson that art was the greatest 
expression of joy in work and life, and the highest evidence 
(as I will put it) of man's likeness to, and his worship of, 
his Creator. In the intensity of this conviction, no less 
than in the splendour of his example, concerning the high 
importance of art as a fundamental test of man's real 
freedom, of democracy, and of civilisation itself, Morris 
stands out unique among the greatest teachers of the 
modern world. 

Lastly, and inevitably, Morris was a Socialist. He was 
a Socialist because he could not be William Morris without 
being a Socialist. His Socialism was not, as some of his 
admirers have supposed, an incidental occurrence in his 
life a sort of by-product of his career ; it was integral with 
his genius ; it was born and bred in his flesh and bone. 
He derived his Socialist impulse from no theory or philo- 
sophy or reasoning of his intellect, but from his very being. 
Under no circumstances of life could he ever have been 
happy in making his fellow-man a slave, or in deriving 
advantage from his fellows' pain or misery ; nor could he 
have done so at all without being conscious of doing /'/, for 
the very nature of him would have perceived the fact 
through whatever conventions might obscure it. It was 
simply impossible for him to accept from others any service 
or gift which he himself was not ready in his heart to give 
to others even more abundantly if he could. 

Fellowship, he said, is life, and lack of fellowship is 
death ; and in saying this he was expressing not a mere 
judgment of his mind, but what he felt within himself and 
what he expressed in his art and whole conduct of life. 

All these things about Morris I did not, of course, 
know when I first met him and fixed my youthful homage 
upon him : indeed, it was not until after his death that 
the greater qualities of his character and achievement 
revealed themselves to me. But I felt from my first 
acquaintance with him, as did so many others, that he 



INTRODUCTION 5 

was greater than his fame, or than even his remarkable 
personality betokened him to be. 

It was something, then, even to know such a man. 
It was much not only to know him, but to be privileged 
to enjoy his friendship. That I was among those fortunate 
enough to gain that boon, I reckon as one of the greatest 
rewards of my Socialist apostleship, and as part of the 
good fortune of my life. It has not only coloured my 
Socialist ideals and hopes, but has tinged with a glow of 
romance the memory of all my after days. 

True, my acquaintance with him was in actual quantity 
of intimacy very small, though it covered a period of over 
ten years from 1884 till the time of his death. Even at 
that I only met him some three or four times a year, either 
while he was visiting Scotland on a Socialist lecturing tour, 
or when I was visiting him at his house in Hammersmith, 
and on each occasion only for a day or two. But during 
these visits I was brought closely in touch with him, and 
was so eagerly interested in all he said and did, and all 
things concerning him, that I gained the utmost from 
these personal experiences. Besides, he corresponded fre- 
quently with me, writing always to me most frankly con- 
cerning himself and the affairs of the Socialist movement. 

Alike, therefore, because of the interest which is 
generally felt in the personal characteristics of a man of 
such great attainments as Morris, and because of the 
interest and importance which his work in the Socialist 
movement has for so many of the younger generation of 
Socialists, I propose to set down in these pages some of 
my recollections of him. 

Often during the past twenty years I have been eagerly 
asked about him, when I have been sitting with comrades 
round the fire after addressing Socialist meetings, and on 
such occasions I have always been implored to write down 
my reminiscences of him. That, however, I have hitherto 
shrunk from doing, partly because I have felt so much 
reverence for the memory of the man that I have been 



6 WILLIAM MORRIS 

loth to risk writing about him, lest in so doing I should 
unwittingly deface in any way the true image of him ; and 
partly because I have hitherto been too much absorbed in 
my every-day work to afford the leisure for the task 
little as it may seem. But now, confined as I am to bed, 
and with only, as it would seem, a few more months at 
most in which to write or to do anything more in this 
realm of life, I feel a longing which I cannot allay to 
leave some of the treasures of my memories of him as a 
legacy to the Socialist movement. 

And should anyone object to the number of these 
chapters, and to the minuteness of the details recorded in 
some of them, I can only plead that to myself and, I hope, 
to many Socialists at least all that concerns a true appre- 
ciation of Morris' character, and the circumstances of his 
propaganda career, are as interesting and important as 
anything that can be recorded of any notable thinker and 
worker in modern history. 

It may be asked whether, in recording Morris' conver- 
sations, I have relied upon notes taken at the time, or 
solely upon my memory. I have done neither. For- 
tunately I have preserved diary notes covering several 
years of our acquaintance, in which there are brief jottings 
concerning him. These have enabled me to check dates 
of meetings and some other details. As for my memory, 
it is one of the poorest so far as concerns retaining in the 
ordinary way a recollection of words or phrases, but it is 
usually exceedingly retentive of visual or pictorial impres- 
sions. During the past twenty or thirty years I have 
often, as I have said, had occasion when talking over early 
times with friends to recall many of the incidents recorded 
here, and have rarely found any difficulty in bringing back 
a vivid recollection of the scenes, but have usually had to 
content myself with giving the barest indication of the 
conversations. How then am I to account for being 
able to set down, as I have done in many instances, what 
I give as the actual words used by him ? 



INTRODUCTION 7 

It is right that I should explain this matter, so that 
my readers may judge how far they may place reliance 
on my narrative. 

I do not know whether my experience in this matter 
is at all a common one with writers of reminiscences, but 
I have found that my memory is, on many occasions, 
subject to what seems to be a sort of * illumination ' or 
* inspiration.' Thus, when I have fixed my mind on one, 
say, of the incidents recalled in these chapters, the scene 
has begun to unfold itself perhaps slowly at first, but 
afterwards rapidly and clearly. Meditating upon it for a 
time, I have lifted my pen and begun to write. Then, to 
my surprise, the conversations, long buried or hidden some- 
where in my memory, have come back to me, sometimes 
in the greatest fullness word for word, as we say. Nay, 
not only the bare words, but the tones, the pauses, and 
the gestures of the speaker. The whole scene, in fact, 
with all that was at the time visible to (or at least noted 
by) the eye, and all that was heard or noted by the ear, 
has returned and rehearsed or repeated itself in my mind. 
Or, to put the experience in another and perhaps as true 
a way, my mind has been taken back winged imagina- 
tively across the gulf of years to the actual occurrence, 
and I have seen and heard once more what I then saw 
and heard. 

In writing, for example, the account given in the 
chapter ' A Red- Letter Day,' of our meeting on the 
cinder-heap, I was taken back, so to speak, to that Satur- 
day afternoon thirty-two years ago, and lived over again 
its minutes and hours. I sat again with Morris in the 
train ; I listened to the inebriated house-carpenter's chatter; 
I turned away shamefaced on the station platform, while 
Morris fulminated against the unlucky railway guard. I 
stood by the cinder-heap and listened to Morris give his 
address, hearing his voice and observing his mannerisms, 
watching the faces and hearing the occasional remarks of 
the audience, and noting the dreary surroundings of dismal 



8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

buildings and bristling chimney stalks I passed again, I 
say, through all this experience, the scenes all re-enacting 
themselves over again, as vividly (so at least it seemed to 
me) as when they occurred. 

Not, of course, in every instance has the resurrection 
of the incidents or conversations been equally full and 
distinct. In some cases I have had difficulty in calling 
p a complete replica of the scenes and in recollecting 
the spoken words, and so have given the spirit rather than 
the letter of his remarks. But, so far as I am aware, I 
have set down nothing in these pages that is not true in 
circumstance and substance, if not in every instance in 
precise delineation and phrase, of what actually occurred. 

In this way, then, have these recollections been written, 
and the reader must judge for himself what trust he can 
place in the accuracy of the record. 

On looking over again what I have written, I discover 
that I have brought myself a good deal into my narrative. 
My intention was wholly otherwise. Indeed, my first 
idea was to write in the third person throughout, and avoid 
any reference to myself other than such as cropped up 
incidentally. But when I tried to write in that fashion, 
the light failed me altogether ; I could see nothing clearly, 
and the whole thing seemed destitute of reality and life. 
I had no alternative, therefore, but to write as the recollec- 
tions flashed into my mind, or not at all. I must bear 
cheerfully, therefore, whatever rebuke my egotism seeming 
or real brings upon me, as ordained by my task. 

All that is contained in these pages, as I have said, 
has been written lying on a bed of pain, with no expecta- 
tion that I shall ever again walk out amongst my fellows. 
Rather is my mind set upon the new and strange journey 
that is dimly before me. And notwithstanding long years 
of agnostic belief I cannot rid myself of the surmise, the 
hope, the wonder call it what you will that any hour 
or day I shall find myself in the * abode where the eternal 
are,' and shall again meet my splendid comrade face to 



INTRODUCTION 9 

face. Nay, strange as the thought may appear, I have 
in a sort of half-dream imagined myself going, while yet 
some filaments of my present earthly vesture cling to me, 
to greet him gladly, and placing this book of mine in his 
hand, without any misgiving lest he should find in it aught 
that is untrue concerning him, or that might bring a shadow 
of frown on his brow, or make me shrink from his eyes. 
And if I can say this in all sincerity, as I do, what else 
need I say ? What else but repeat his own memorable 
words : * Think of the joy we have in praising great men, 
and how we turn their stories over and over, and fashion 
their lives for our joy ; and this also we ourselves may give 
to the world.' 



CHAPTER II 

THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE 

IT is necessary to ask my readers who wish to follow 
understandingly the story of these chapters to bear with 
me while I give a short account of the position of the 
modern Socialist movement in this country at the period 
when the narrative in these pages begins. Without some 
notion of the origin of the Socialist movement and the 
circumstances that led to the formation of the Socialist 
League, under whose banner William Morris accomplished 
the greater part of his work as a Socialist agitator, many 
of the references in these chapters would be unintelligible 
to the reader, and the true significance of his career as a 
Socialist pioneer would escape observation. 

I shall confine myself, however, to the barest outline 
of events. 

There was at the period when Morris began his 
Socialist career, early in 1883, only one political Socialist 
body in this country namely, the Democratic Federation. 
This body was, in fact, the first political Socialist organisa- 
tion formed in this country. Needless to say, Socialism 
itself, or rather Socialist ideas and Socialist teaching, did 
not originate with the Democratic Federation, or indeed 
with any modern movement. The prophecy and power 
of Socialism has come down the ages of history with the 
growing idealism and social culture of mankind. Only in 
recent times, however, has the industrial and political 
progress of civilisation rendered the achievement of Socialism 



THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE n 

on a large community or national scale possible by means 
of political organisation. 

Already by the time of the formation of the Demo- 
cratic Federation there was a widespread unrest in 
thoughtful minds with the existing conditions of society, 
and heralding voices of the coming Socialist movement 
were heard in every land. Robert Owen in this country, 
and St. Simon and Fourier in France, and Fichte and 
Weitling in Germany, had earlier in the century brought 
forward their various schemes of co-operative workshops 
and communistic associations, and in the revolutionary 
outbreaks of 1848 .abroad, and in the Chartist agitation 
at home notably by the voice and pens of Bronterre 
O'Brien and Ernest Jones the cry of 'the Wealth for the 
Workers ' in almost clear, class-conscious notes had 
resounded throughout the world. But the extraordinary 
advance of capitalist industry, aided by steam production 
and transport, together with the great exodus to America, 
Australia, and other colonies, had distracted the attention 
of the people from their misery, and aroused hopes of 
more prosperous days. Nevertheless, the gathering cur- 
rents of Socialist thought were pressing on and rinding 
fitful expression in the writings of Carlyle, Disraeli, Ruskin, 
Mill, and the more earnest Radicals, and in the Christian 
Socialist movement of Kingsley, Maurice, Ludlow, and 
Mackay. Lastly, there came upon the scene about 1880 
the outbreaks of the Irish and Highland Land Leagues, 
and the * Land for the People ' propaganda of Henry 
George, Michael Davitt, Alfred Russel Wallace, and 
Philip Wicksteed, which aroused widespread discussion. 

But as yet, notwithstanding these signs of social insur- 
gency, Socialist ideas had not assumed any definite political 
form in this country. The working-class in the bulk 
were completely under the sway of the capitalist political 
parties whose most advanced projects were embodied in 
Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian speeches of 1879-1880, in 
which no reference whatever to Socialism, or even to 



12 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Labour in a political sense, occurs. There were no 
Socialist meetings, no Socialist literature. The Guild of 
St. Matthew, founded in 1877 by the Rev. Stewart Headlam, 
the Rev. W. E. Moll, and a small group of earnest Church 
reformers, who avowed themselves Socialists and declared 
that Socialism and Christianity were one, may rightly claim 
to have sounded the note of the forthcoming Socialist 
movement, but it had a religious rather than a political 
basis. 

Such was the state, or stage, of Socialist thought in 
this country when the Democratic Federation was formed 
in London in March 1881. The Federation was not 
itself an avowed Socialist body at the outset, though its 
chief promoters, H. M. Hyndman, Herbert Burrows, Miss 
Helen Taylor (stepdaughter of John Stuart Mill), and 
Dr. G. B. Clark, were Socialists. The most advanced 
item on its programme was the Nationalisation of the Land ; 
and although Mr. Hyndman (who himself had just been 
converted to Socialism by reading Marx's * Capital ') at the 
opening meeting distributed a little booklet, * England for 
All,' which was the first publication in this country that 
laid down the new * scientific ' doctrine of Socialism and 
called for political action for Socialism, it was not until 
nearly four years later, September 1884, that the Federa- 
tion adopted a definitely Socialist basis and changed its 
name to that of the Social Democratic Federation. 

By this time the Fabian Society had also come into 
being, emerging, early in 1884, from a group of social 
and ethical research enquirers, calling itself the Fellowship 
of the New Life. But the Fabian Society, though adopt- 
ing political Socialist aims, was a middle-class group of 
controversialists, who sought to permeate existing political 
parties with Socialist ideas, rather than to create a new 
Socialist party. 

Morris joined the Federation when as yet it was only 
'becoming' a Socialist body, on January 17, 1883, exactly 
ten years, it may be noted, before the Socialist movement 



THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE 13 

took its wider political form in the formation of the Inde- 
pendent Labour Party. He had, however, for several 
years previously taken a great interest in Socialism, and 
had both in his art lectures and occasional political addresses 
spoken from a definitely Socialistic standpoint. 

* I am truly glad,' he wrote to Lady Burne- Jones, 
* that I have joined the only society that I could find is 
definitely socialistic.' 

A few months later he wrote her : * I am sure it is 
right, whatever the apparent consequences may be, to 
stir up the lower class (damn the word) to demand a 
higher standard of life for themselves, not merely for the 
sake of themselves and the material comfort it will bring, 
but for the good of the whole world and the regeneration 
of the conscience of man ; and this stirring up is part of 
the necessary education which must in good truth go before 
the reconstruction of society. For I repeat that without 
laying before the people this reconstruction, our education 
will but breed tryants and cowards, big, little and least, 
down to the smallest who can screw out money from stand- 
ing by to see another man working for him. The one 
thing I want you to be clear about is that I cannot help 
acting in this matter and associating myself with anybody 
who has the root of the matter.' * 

The Federation was then a small organisation consist- 
ing only of a few dozen affiliated branches or clubs, the 
majority of them in London, and each with a score or two 
of members. Shortly after joining it Morris was induced, 
very reluctantly, to become treasurer of the Party, an 
office which, besides compelling him to bother with keep- 
ing accounts, a thing he detested, also entailed a constant 
drain upon his own purse, as the outlayings always exceeded 
the intakings of the treasury. 

Small in membership and still young in years as the 
Federation was, it had already by the time I am speaking 
of become afflicted with the disease of internal dissension. 

1 Mackail's Life of Wm. Morris, ii. 112, 113. 



i 4 WILLIAM MORRIS 

This strife reached a climax in December 1884, when 
Morris and the majority of the London Executive seceded 
from the Federation and formed the Socialist League. 

The cause of this split need only be briefly recorded. 
It arose, as happens in most such cases, partly from a dis- 
pute over political matters and partly from a quarrel of 
a personal nature. The chief political ground of con- 
tention was the question of parliamentary policy. Contrary 
to the views of Morris and his friends, Hyndman, Champion, 
Burns, and others on the Executive were resolved to make 
palliative measures and electioneering objects of the Party. 
In particular they had decided to approve two ' wild cat ' 
candidatures for London parliamentary seats at the then 
impending General Election that of Jack Williams for 
Hampstead and Fielding for Kennington, who polled 
the ridiculously small votes of 27 and 32 respectively. 
John Burns, whose candidature at Nottingham was well 
organised, polled 598 votes out of a total poll of 11,034. 

Morris and his side opposed the Hyndman-Champion 
policy mainly on two grounds : (i) that parliamentary 
action, so long at any rate as the movement was in merely 
a propaganda stage, was contrary to Socialist revolutionary 
principles, and was besides wholly inopportune while as 
yet the people had hardly the least notion of what Socialism 
meant ; and (2) because the money for running the Williams 
and Fielding candidatures was obtained from the Tory 
Party a fact which Hyndman and Champion not only 
admitted but approved. 

But to these political considerations, which were the 
ostensible grounds of the dispute, there was added a bitter 
personal feud between Hyndman and Scheu, both leading 
members of the Party. Regarding the circumstances of 
this personal squabble I know nothing and have never 
desired to know. Mr. Hyndman in his ' Record of an 
Adventurous Life' declares that this personal feud, the 
blame of which he casts wholly on his opponent, was really 
the chief cause of all the trouble. But that I feel sure is 



THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE 15 

quite an erroneous view. The question of parliamentary 
policy was then as now one of vital importance in the 
Socialist movement, not only in this country but in all 
countries ; and it is almost inconceivable that, soon or 
late, the conflict of opinion on the subject would not have 
divided the movement into two or more camps. 

Besides, we can be quite certain that, as far as Morris 
at any rate is concerned, he could not have been a party 
to any attempt to promote the Socialist cause by means 
of political intrigue or irresponsible electioneering adven- 
tures. The acceptance of Tory money roused his utmost 
indignation. So much did he abhor dodges of that kind 
that he never spoke of the matter calmly, and in an article 
in the Labour Prophet, January 1894, in which he 
expressed the hope that a great political Socialist Party 
might be formed, he closed with the warning : * One last 
word of caution. Especial care should be taken by Socialists 
engaged in politics to avoid even the shadow of a suspicion 
of an alliance with declared and ticketed reactionists. No 
one will offer us Liberal money ; let it be a deadly affront 
to be accused of taking Tory money.' 

In one of the last conversations I had with him he 
told me that not only had the ' Tory gold ' affair of the 
Social Democratic Federation scared him against parlia- 
mentarianism, but that the allegation that Keir Hardie 
had accepted Tory money at the Mid-Lanark election in 
1888 had deeply, and much to his regret, prejudiced him 
against Hardie for many years. 

The Socialist League was formally inaugurated at 
a little gathering held in London on December 30, 1884, 
and immediately issued a manifesto setting forth its principles 
as a revolutionary Socialist body signed by twenty-three 
supporters. Among the names were Morris, Belfort Bax, 
E. T. Craig, C. J. Faulkner, Frank Kitz, Joe Lane, 
Edward Aveling, Eleanor Marx, Frederick Lessner, 
W. Bridges Adams, Robert Banner, Tom Maguire (Leeds), 
James Mavor (Glasgow), and Andreas Scheu (Edinburgh). 



16 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Morris was appointed Treasurer and Editor of the new 
organ of the League, the Commonweal, with Dr. 
Edward Aveling as sub-editor, and J. L. Mahon was 
appointed Secretary. Headquarters and printing premises 
were opened at 27 Farringdon Street, and the first monthly 
issue of the Commonweal, which appeared in February 
1885, contained Morris' song, 'The March of the Workers,' 
and the manifesto of the League. 

The manifesto was mainly devoted to an exposition 
of the economic and moral principles of Socialism, or rather 
of Communism. No stress was laid upon anti-parliamen- 
tary methods. Mere ' State Socialism,' whose * aim would 
be to leave the present system of capital and wages still in 
operation,' is repudiated, as are also * merely administrative 
changes, until the workers are in possession of all political 
power.' The Socialist League, it declared, therefore 
aimed at ' the realisation of complete revolutionary 
Socialism, and well knows that this can never happen in 
any country without the help of the workers of all civilisation. 
For us neither geographical boundaries, political history, 
race nor creed makes rivals or enemies ; for us there are 
no nations, but only varied masses of workers and friends, 
whose mutual sympathies are checked or perverted by groups 
of masters or fleecers whose interests are to stir up rivalries 
between the dwellers in distant lands.' 

The manifesto indeed was such as any Socialist believ- 
ing in parliamentary action directed towards ' complete 
revolutionary Socialism ' might sign without reservation. 
In fact most of the signatories were avowedly parliamen- 
tarians. It was not until the friction between the Federa- 
tion and the League had greatly sharpened their differences 
on the subject of political policy that Morris and the League 
members generally became definitely hostile to parliamen- 
tary methods of advancing the Socialist cause. And this 
hostility to parliamentary action, as we shall see later on, 
only lasted, as far as Morris and most of the original members 
of the League are concerned, for a period of a few years. 



THE SOCIALIST LEAGUE 17 

As soon as the Socialist League was formed in London 
a number of the provincial branches of the Federation, 
wholly or in part, left the Federation and joined. In 
Glasgow about one-half of us belonging to the Federation 
seceded and formed the Glasgow branch of the League 
early in January 1885. The Scottish Land and Labour 
League founded in Edinburgh, or the Scottish section of 
the Federation, by Andreas Scheu, also seceded from the 
Federation, and affiliated itself with the League. 

Such in brief was the history and position of the modern 
Socialist movement in this country at the period when 
these recollections of William Morris begin. 

The Socialist League, short-lived as its career was, 
was nevertheless an important factor in the making of the 
British Socialist movement and in shaping its character. 
The influence of its early teaching, its high idealism, its 
communistic aim, its conception of fellowship as the basic 
principle of Socialism, and its emphasis on, not merely 
the political and economic claims of Labour, but the necessity 
of art and pleasure in work as a means of joy in life these 
ideas, which were the staple of Morris' teaching, and infused 
by the League into the early movement, have remained 
germinal in its propaganda, and have helped to give British 
Socialism its distinctive character. 



CHAPTER III 

FIRST MEETING WITH MORRIS 

LONG before I first met William Morris, or had any notion 
of what manner of man he was personally, my imagination 
had invested him with a somewhat mysterious glamour, 
and he loomed as a star of large but misty splendour on 
my mind's horizon. When deep in poetry reading in 
my earlier manhood days, his name was familiar to me as 
the author of * The Earthly Paradise ' and * Jason,' though 
as yet the only work of his that I had read the only one 
I could find in any public library in Glasgow at that time 
was ' Love is Enough, or The Freeing of Pharamond.* 
I knew also that, besides being a poet of acknowledged high 
rank, he was famed in art circles as a designer and reformer 
of the decorative arts, but I had seen none of his designs, 
and had little idea of what was the nature of his crafts- 
manship. In the Athen<zum, the Literary World, and 
the architectural journals, I had seen occasional allusions 
to his poetry, art-work, and art lectures, and from these 
sources I further gathered that he was reckoned a man of 
uncommon mould among men of genius ; something of a 
prophet or heresiarch as well as a poet and artist. What 
the nature of his propagandism was, I did not know. A 
vague something, however, about him, or rather about 
his repute, gave me the feeling that on fuller knowledge 
I should approve and warmly admire him. I surmised 
that I.. shp_uld discover in him one^ who, somewhere on the 
higher altitudes of literature and art, wasjtriking out towards 
new hopes and endeavours for mankind. 

18 



FIRST MEETING WITH MORRIS 19 

But in those days, before the advent of free public 
libraries and popular art exhibitions, young men, like myself, 
of the common people, had scant opportunities of acquaint- 
ing themselves with the works of any but the more orthodox 
and popular writers and artists of their own day. Contro- 
versial writings, such as, for example, those of Ruskin, Mill, 
and even Matthew Arnold, were rarely on the catalogues of 
libraries accessible to the working-class. Indeed, I hardly 
know how so many of us young enquirers got hold of them 
at all. For the most part, therefore, we had only dim ideas, 
mainly derived from magazine literature, concerning the 
new currents of thought that were agitating academic art 
and "literary circles. 

Morris was thus a sort of half-mythical being to me 
when, early in 1 883, paragraphs in the newspapers announced 
that the author of * The Earthly Paradise ' was about to 
take an active part in the Socialist movement, and had 
enrolled himself a member of the Democratic Federation. 
The newspapers spoke of the remarkable genius and per- 
sonality of the man, regretting that so distinguished a 
representative of arts and letters should have become obsessed 
by wild and impracticable revolutionary idqas, and ascribing 
his conduct to the eccentricity of genius. 

The following paragraph, which appeared among a series 
of notes which I was contributing at that time to a little 
Radical and ' Land for the People ' weekly in Glasgow, 
edited by my friend Shaw Maxwell, has a far-away sound 
to-day : 

* William Morris is a remarkable man. By the publica- 
tion of " The Earthly Paradise " he achieved fame as one 
of the most original poets of our age. He is the head of 
the celebrated firm of decorative artists " Morris & Co," 
and has created a new school for that important branch of 
art. Some years ago he startled his aristocratic and wealthy 
patrons by betraying unmistakable democratic proclivities. 
Up till recently, however, his practical sympathy with the 



20 WILLIAM MORRIS 

proletariat was confined mainly to occasional and unob- 
trusive visits to the London democratic clubs, and con- 
tributing to their funds. Now he has begun addressing 
public meetings, and it is announced that he has designed 
a card of membership for the Democratic Federation, and 
has written " A Chant for Socialists." Like Mazzini, 
Mr. Morris evidently believes it to be his duty, despite 
all other considerations, to "hold aloft his banner and 
boldly promulgate his faith." 

*THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE.' 
'Glasgow, October 27, 1883.' 

That paragraph summed up all the knowledge I then 
had of Morris. I can remember picturing to myself, when 
writing it, the wonderful world (as it seemed to me) of 
poetry and art in which he and his companions, Rossetti, 
Burne-Jones, and Swinburne, lived their Arcadian lives, 
and from which, like a prince in a fairy story, he appeared 
to be stepping down chivalrously into the dreary region of 
working-class agitation. 

There was at that period no Socialist group in Glasgow, 
and although I had been giving lectures on Socialism during 
the past two or three years to Young Men's Debating 
Societies, Radical Associations, and Irish Land League 
branches, I did not know of anyone who was inclined to 
take part in forming a Socialist society. My friend, Shaw 
Maxwell, however, then an ardent Land Restorationist 
and sympathetic towards the new Socialist ideas, was as 
eager as myself to see and hear Morris, and he wrote him, 
inviting him to lecture in Glasgow under the auspices of 
the Sunday Lectures Society, of which he was the secretary. 
Morris to our delight agreed to come ; and about a year 
later, Sunday, December 14, 1884, came and gave his 
lecture on ' Art and Labour ' in the St. Andrews Hall. 
It was in connection with this visit that I first met Morris. 

Meanwhile, before the date of Morris' coming, a few 
of us had at last got together in Glasgow and had formed 



FIRST MEETING WITH MORRIS 21 

(early in the summer of 1884) a branch of the Social Demo- 
cratic Federation. Andreas Scheu, a member of the Council 
of the Federation in London, who had recently removed 
to Edinburgh in connection with his profession as a furniture 
designer, and who had at once founded a branch of the 
Federation in that city, visited our Glasgow branch, and 
gave us a glowing account of Morris, boldly idolizing him 
alike as the beau-ideal of a poet-artist, and as an archetype 
of a Socialist comrade. We were, of course, exceedingly 
desirous that Morris should address a meeting under the 
auspices of the branch when he came to speak for the Sunday 
Lecture Society, but his engagements would not allow his 
doing so. He readily, however, agreed to meet the members 
of the branch on the Sunday evening after his lecture in the 
St. Andrews Hall. 

He was booked to speak for the Edinburgh branch of 
the Federation on the Saturday evening before coming to 
Glasgow, and so eager was I to see and hear him, that instead 
of waiting until he came to Glasgow on the Sunday, I made 
a special journey to Edinburgh on the Saturday evening. 

The Edinburgh meeting was held in a little hall in 
Picardy Place, which the branch had recently acquired 
as its club-room. The hall had been newly * carved out f 
of a first-floor dwelling, and was decorated with fine taste 
and furnished with specially designed cane-bottom chairs 
the joint result of Andreas Scheu's artistic skill and the 
bounty of an Edinburgh merchant who was friendly to 
the cause. 1 I remember on seeing the club-room how 

1 The donor of the gift of ^100 was a Mr. Millar who had warm 
sympathy with Socialism and working-class interests. He also 
gave 1000 for the holding of an Industrial Remuneration Con- 
ference, to consider the best means of improving working-class 
wages. This Conference, which was held in Edinburgh, January 
1886, created considerable public interest at the time. Among 
those who attended and spoke at the Conference were Alfred Russel 
Wallace, A. J. Balfour, Bernard Shaw, John Burns, Professor Leone 
Levi, Robert Giffen, Sir Thomas Brassey, Professor Marshall, and 
Dr. G. B. Clark. The proceedings were afterwards published in a 
special volume. 



22 WILLIAM MORRIS 

envious I felt at the good fortune of our Edinburgh com- 
rades in having such a handsome meeting-place, while we 
in Glasgow had to be content with a dingy little hall in 
the slummiest quarter of the city for the meetings of our 
Socialist group. 

Morris had not yet arrived when I took my seat in the 
hall, and I recall how anxiously I awaited his appearance 
lest for any reason he should not turn up. When a few 
minutes later he entered the room with Scheu and the Rev. 
Dr. John Glasse (his host and chairman), I at once knew it 
was he. No one else could be like that. There he was, a 
sun-god, truly, in his ever afterwards familiar dark-blue 
serge jacket suit and lighter blue cotton shirt and collar 
(without scarf or tie), and with the grandest head I had ever 
seen on the shoulders of a man. He was detained near the 
door for several minutes, while various people were being 
introduced to him, and I noticed that he was slightly under 
middle height, but was broadly and sturdily set. A kind 
of glow seemed to be about him, such as we see lighting 
up the faces in a room when a beautiful child comes in. 

When the pressure of friends around him was over, 
Scheu, who had noticed me in the hall I was a complete 
stranger to all our Edinburgh comrades save himself 
beckoned me from my seat and introduced me to Morris, 
telling him that I was from Glasgow, and was * one of the 
most enthusiastic propagandists in Scotland.' At this ex- 
travagant commendation Morris cast a scrutinising glance 
in my face, and with a friendly word proceeded with Dr. 
Glasse to the platform at the end of the room. 

I now set my eyes full upon him seated on the plat- 
form. He appeared a larger man than when on his feet, 
so that Dr. Glasse, who was taller and hardly less stout than 
he, appeared small by comparison. He seemed in a remark- 
able way to open wide his whole being to the audience. 
This impression of his expanding or opening out when facing 
his hearers often struck me afterwards as very characteristic 
of him. He always sat with his broad shoulders held well 



FIRST MEETING WITH MORRIS 23 

back, his knees spread well apart, and his arms when not 
employed spread wide upon his knees or upon the table ; 
his loose, unscarfed shirt front, his tousy head, and his 
ever restless movements from side to side adding to the 
impression of his spaciousness. He was then fifty-one 
years of age, and just beginning to look elderly. His 
splendid crest of dark curly hair and his finely textured beard 
were brindling into grey. His head was lion-like, not 
only because of his shaggy mane, but because of the impress 
of strength of his whole front. There was in his eyes, 
especially when in repose, that penetrating, far-away, 
impenetrable gaze that seems to be fixed on something 
beyond that at which it is directly looking, so characteristic 
of the King of the Forest. This leonine aspect, physiogno- 
mists would doubtless say, betokened in Morris the same 
consciousness of strength, absence of fear, and capacity for 
great instinctive action which gives to the lion that extra- 
ordinary dignity of mien which fascinates observers. I noted, 
also but not until afterwards was I aware of the inveteracy 
of the habit the constant restlessness of his hands, and indeed 
of his whole body, as if overcharged with energy. 

In introducing him, Dr. Glasse spoke of the significance 
of the fact that the most gifted artistic genius of our day had 
associated himself with a movement that was everywhere 
condemned as being but the expression of sordid and un- 
cultured discontent. Yet no one could say that William 
Morris was uncultured or had any reason in a worldly sense 
to be discontented with his lot. It was because of his 
extraordinary gift of political and artistic insight that he 
realised more keenly than did the men of his class the hopeless 
ugliness and injustice of our present social system and was 
in revolt against it. William Morris was not only a prophet 
of Socialism but was himself a prophecy of Socialism. 

The subject of Morris' lecture was * Misery and the 
Way Out,' one of his best and most characteristic lectures, 
which, however, he but rarely repeated. I was too deeply 
interested on this occasion, once he rose to deliver the 



24 WILLIAM MORRIS 

lecture, in the matter of his discourse, to observe or indeed 
be conscious at all of the style of his speaking or mannerism 
on the platform, concerning which I may offer some 
descriptive notes later on when I come to speak of the 
general characteristics of his propaganda work. Enough 
to say for the present that I listened to him with more than 
delight. His lecture was, as himself, to me a thing of great 
joy. I saw no fault whatever in him I felt as one enriched 
with a great possession. In him my ideal of man was 
realised. I fell incontinently into a hero-worship which 
has, as the reader will now have realised, lasted till this 
day, and of which I am neither ashamed nor unashamed 



CHAPTER IV 

GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 

I HAD to leave the Edinburgh meeting immediately after 
Morris finished his lecture, as I had to return to Glasgow 
that night. Morris came on to Glasgow early on the 
Sunday, and was, I think, the guest of Professor John 
Nichol, of the Chair of Literature. I did not see him until 
the evening meeting in St. Andrews Hall. Despite the 
wretched weather, the hall, the largest in Glasgow, seating 
nearly 5000 people, had an audience of about 3000 for him. 
Perhaps in no other city in the kingdom could audiences 
of a higher level of intelligence be obtained than those 
which assembled on Sunday evenings in Glasgow at that 
period, under the auspices of the Sunday Society, to listen 
to lecturers of the variety and stamp of Professor Tyndall, 
Alfred Russel Wallace, Ford Madox Brown, W. M. 
Rossetti, Bret Harte, Henry George, and Professor John 
Stuart Blackie. For while the Sabbatarian ban, then 
still stringent in Scotland, against the holding of any but 
religious meetings on Sundays kept away the more timid 
of the intellectual elite, it ensured, on the other hand, that 
the audiences which attended the Sunday Society lectures 
were for the greater part composed of men and women 
whose minds had been aroused from orthodox sloth and 
were prepared to take unconventional paths. Morris himself 
remarked on the prevalence of eager, intelligent faces in 
the crowded seats near the platform. There were, of 
course, among his listeners a considerable number of 

2 5 



26 WILLIAM MORRIS 

university and art school students, artists, and literary 
people, but by far the greater number were artisans of the 
thoughtful and better-read type, who in those days formed, 
in Glasgow at any rate, a large proportion of the work- 
ing class a larger proportion, I regret to think, than is the 
case nowadays. 

On his appearing on the platform Morris was scanned 
with the keenest interest. His unconventional dress, his 
striking head, and his frank, unaffected bearing at once 
favourably impressed the audience, which gave him, not 
perhaps quite an enthusiastic, but rather, as I thought, 
an exceedingly friendly and respectful reception. A pleasant 
hum of expectation passed through the hall as he purposefully 
laid his manuscript on the reading-stand, and planted the 
water-bottle close to his reach, and 'shook his wings out,* 
as one might say, before beginning to speak. 

He read his lecture, or rather recited it, keeping his 
eye on the written pages, which he turned over without 
concealment. There being more room to swing about in 
than on the Edinburgh platform, he was freer in his move- 
ments, and every now and then walked to and fro, bearing 
his manuscript, schoolboy-like, in his hand. Occasionally 
he paused in his recital, and in a * man to man ' sort of 
way explained some special point, or turned to those near 
him on the platform for their assent to some particular 
statement. Of the lecture itself I only remember that it 
seemed to me something more than a lecture, a kind of 
parable or prediction, in which art and labour were held 
forth, not as mere circumstances or incidents of life, but 
as life or the act of living itself. As we listened, our minds 
seemed to gain a new sense of sight, or new way of seeing 
and understanding why we lived in the world, and how 
important to our own selves was the well-being of our 
fellows. His ideas seemed to spring from a pure well 
of idealism within himself, and in his diction the English 
language had a new tune to the ear. No such an address 
had ever been heard in Glasgow before ; no such single- 



GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 27 

minded and noble appeal to man's inherent sense of rightness 
and fellowship towards man. 

It is not easy for thinkers of the present generation to 
understand how strange and wonderful in those days were 
the tidings of this discourse, alike to the few of us who were 
already on the Socialist path, and to the many who had 
hardly, if at all, ever considered the idea of the possibility 
of * making the world anew.' Socialist principles generally, 
and Morris' own distinctive Socialist views, have now 
become more or less familiar to everyone ; but how different 
it was in the days when Gladstonian Liberalism represented 
the utmost political hopes of civilisation ! But not all the 
audience were in ready response. That the sympathies 
of the majority were, for the time being at least, fairly 
won by the lecture was testified alike by the eager interest 
with which they followed every word and by their frequent 
bursts of applause during its delivery. There were, how- 
ever, a good sprinkling of dissentients, chiefly old Radicals, 
men with firmly-set lips and cogitative brows, who, while 
unable to withhold their applause from the democratic 
sentiments in the lecture, never for a moment lost sight of 
their inveterate individualist doctrines. These men shook 
their heads doubtfully from time to time as they realised 
how far beyond their accustomed political horizon the lecture 
would lead them. I remember observing with amusement 
when the meeting was over some of these old veterans 
lingering in their seats or standing in groups at the doorway 
of the hall, eagerly expostulating to one another concerning 
the danger or impossibility of the views which had been 
laid before them. One old Secularist whom I knew well 
remarked to me irritably, but with a wistful look in his 
deeply-recessed but wonderfully bright eyes, as he passed 
out by the platform door : * Ah, young man, I heard a' 
that kind o' thing frae Robert Owen and Henry Hetherington 
fifty and more years ago. They were going to bring in 
the New Moral World, as they ca'd it, but they found 
human nature too hard a flint to flake. Na, na, it hasna' 



28 WILLIAM MORRIS 

come in my day, and it'll no come in yours ; and it'll no 
come at a' if you're going to wreck the Liberal Party as 
some o' your friends are trying their best to do.' 1 

Yet there were present at the lecture (as there were 
at nearly all our Socialist meetings) a few veteran Owen- 
ites who had not wholly lost the faith and hopes of their 
younger days. These aged Radicals, who were in most 
instances Freethinkers, listened enrapt to the unfolding 
afresh of the ideas of the Communist Commonwealth, 
and were pathetically eager to communicate their joy in 
beholding once more in the sunset of their years the glory 
of vision which had filled their eyes in the morning glow 
on the hill-tops long ago. 

This was Morris' first lecture in Glasgow, but it was 
not the first pronouncement of Socialism before a large 
audience in Glasgow. Two months previously Mr. 
Hyndman had publicly inaugurated the new branch of the 
Social Democratic Federation by a lecture on Socialism to 
a crowded audience of 1200 people in the Albion Hall. 
This may be regarded as the first official statement in 
Glasgow of modern ' scientific ' Socialism, though Social 
Democratic principles had been explained from the platform 
of the new branch in small halls for several months pre- 
viously. Morris and Hyndman were then the two most 
prominent representatives of the Socialist movement in 
this country, and their lectures in Glasgow in the back-end 
of the year 1884 mark definitely the beginning of public 
Socialist propaganda in what has since proved the most 
active centre o/ Socialist agitation in the Kingdom. 

But what a difference there was between the two 
lectures, and between the two lecturers ! Hardly could a 
greater contrast be conceived. Indeed, alike in matter 
and in spirit, both the lectures and the lecturers might have 

1 This was an allusion to the Land Restoration League candida- 
tures of Shaw Maxwell and William Forsyth, who contested Parlia- 
mentary seats in Glasgow at the General Election, 1884, in opposition 
to the official Liberal nominees. 






GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 29 

seemed to belong to different worlds or civilisations. 
Hyndman, striking in appearance, with his long, flowing, 
senatorial beard, his keen, restless, searching eyes, and full, 
intellectual brow, dressed in the city best, frock-coat suit 
of the day, with full display of white linen his whole 
manner alert, pushful, and, shall I say, domineering looked 
the very embodiment of middle-class respectability and 
capitalist ideology ; a man of the world, a Pall Mall poli- 
tician from top to toe. 

I cannot remember the arguments of his lecture ; I 
can only recall the impression made by it on my mind at 
the time. Brilliant and convincing it undoubtedly was 
dealing almost wholly with the economic and political 
malefactions of the capitalist system, and I enjoyed it 
greatly. Racy, argumentative, declamatory, and bristling 
with topical allusions and scathing raillery, it was a hustings 
masterpiece. But it was almost wholly critical and de- 
structive. The affirmative and regenerative aims of 
Socialism hardly emerged in it. The reverberating note, in 
feeling if not in phrase, was * I accuse, I expose, I denounce.' 
He seemed to look round the civilised world and see there 
nothing but fraud, hypocrisy, oppression, and infamy on 
the part of the politicians and money-mongers on the one 
hand, and on the other only wooden-headed ignorance, 
stupidity, and servility on the part of the working class. 

Mankind appeared in his view compounded of oppressors 
and oppressed, fleecers and fleeced, dupers and duped. 
He was jauntily cynical, or affected to be so. ' I am an 
educated middle-class man. I derive my living from the 
robbery of the workers. I enjoy the spoil, because it is 
in itself good, and the workers are content, and apparently 
desirous that I should enjoy it. Why therefore should I 
object to their slaving for my enjoyment if they themselves 
don't ? ' Yet nevertheless there was in his protagonism 
a fiery and even fanatical zeal. He appealed for better 
things for justice and democracy for a new system of 
politics and economics, though he hardly indicated whence 



3 o WILLIAM MORRIS 

would come the motive or the power to effect the change, 
except in the material factors of civilisation the inevitable 
next stage of social evolution. 

I heard Hyndman's lecture, as I have said, with real 
enjoyment. It confounded and exasperated his fellow- 
respectables in the audience, and it stung and roused the 
working class. His argument against Capitalism was in- 
contestable. In the field of economics his victory over the 
opponents of Socialism was, or seemed to be, complete. 
But the lecture, though it excited, did not inspire. One 
gained no increase of faith in man's humanity to man from 
it. There was hardly a ray of idealism in it. Capitalism 
was shown to be wasteful and wicked, but Socialism was 
not made to appear more practicable or desirable. There 
was, in fact, very little Socialism in the lecture at all it 
was an anti-capitalist ejaculation. 

When I contrasted Morris' lecture with Hyndman's, 
and compared the two men themselves their impress on 
their hearers, their personal qualities I felt then, as 
I have felt ever since, that the two lectures were different 
kinds of Socialism, even as the two men were at heart 
different types of Socialists. And I then felt, and still feel, 
that I liked the one Socialism and not the other. And 
I felt, and now feel more than ever, that the one Socialism 
is true, universally and for ever, while the other Socialism 
is at least only half-Socialism, and makes only temporary 
and conditional appeal, and that not to the higher social 
but to the more groundling and selfish instincts of the 
race. 

This feeling that Morris and Hyndman represented 
two widely different conceptions of Socialism was impressed 
upon me in a curious way by an experience that befell 
Morris himself on the night of his first Glasgow lecture 
which I have already described. It had been arranged, 
as mentioned in the previous chapter, that after his lecture 
Morris should come along to the meeting-place of our 
Glasgow branch of the Federation for a short chat with 



GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 31 

the members. As soon, therefore, as he had gone through 
the civility of greeting a number of literary and ' art ' folk 
who had gathered in the reception-room, he came away 
with Mavor and myself across the city to Watson Street, 
off the Gallowgate, where upstairs in a low-ceilinged 
warehouse flat the branch meetings were held. He arrived 
just as the public meeting was over, and found a dozen or 
so members grouped round the platform awaiting Morris* 
coming, W. J. Nairne, the secretary, acting as chairman. 

The trouble inside the London Executive of the Fede- 
ration, of which I have spoken in a previous chapter, 
had already divided the Glasgow branch into two factions. 
Nairne was unschooled, but an exceedingly zealous propa- 
gandist, who with myself had been chiefly instrumental 
in forming the branch, and was a keen partisan on the 
Hyndman side, so much so that he greeted Morris quite 
frigidly on his arrival, only grudgingly offering him his 
hand. The members generally, however, gave Morris a 
hearty cheer. Nairne said that he supposed Comrade 
Morris would like to say a few words to the members, 
and with this rather discouraging invitation Morris briefly 
addressed the meeting. 

He was glad, he said, to have the opportunity of meeting 
for the first time his comrades in Glasgow the few who 
had banded themselves together to begin the tremendous 
task of bringing into being a Socialist Commonwealth in 
Great Britain, and he congratulated them on the signs he 
had observed in Glasgow and Edinburgh of public interest 
in the subject of Socialism. He then alluded in careful 
words to the friction in the London Executive on the question 
of political policy, and expressed the hope that the dispute 
would be got over and that they would all be able to work 
together in unity inside the Federation ; but even should 
the regrettable happening come that the two sides resolved to 
separate, he hoped both would continue friendly towards one 
another, making common cause for the overthrow of the 
capitalist system. 



32 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Immediately Morris concluded his remarks Nairne 
proceeded to heckle him, much as he might have done an 
avowed opponent of Socialism. Though surprised at the 
hostile attitude of Nairne and the catechistic nature of 
his questions, Morris showed no resentment, but answered 
the questions quite good-naturedly, and it was evident 
that the meeting felt drawn towards him, though the greater 
number of those present were, as I knew, ranged with 
Nairne on the Hyndman side. 

On his rising to go, Nairne, as a sort of parting shot, 
put to him the question : * Does Comrade Morris accept 
Marx's theory of value ? ' Morris' reply was emphatic, 
and has passed into the movement as one of the best remem- 
bered of his sayings : ' I am asked if I believe in Marx's 
theory of value. To speak quite frankly, I do not know 
what Marx's theory of value is, and I'm damned if I want 
to know.' Then he added : * Truth to say, my friends, 
I have tried to understand Marx's theory, but political 
economy is not in my line, and much of it appears to me 
to be dreary rubbish. But I am, I hope, a Socialist none 
the less. It is enough political economy for me to know 
that the idle class is rich and the working class is poor, and 
that the rich are rich because they rob the poor. That I 
know because I see it with my eyes. I need read no books 
to convince me of it. And it does not matter a rap, it 
seems to me, whether the robbery is accomplished by what 
is termed surplus value, or by means of serfage or open 
brigandage. The whole system is monstrous and intoler- 
able, and what we Socialists have got to do is to work 
together for its complete overthrow, and for the establish- 
ment in its stead of a system of co-operation where there 
shall be no masters or slaves, but where everyone will live 
and work jollily together as neighbours and comrades for 
the equal good of all. That, in a nutshell, is my political 
economy and my social democracy.' 

Bidding the group good-bye with an encouraging word 
about the stir the Free Speech agitation was creating in 



GLASGOW IN THE DAWN 33 

London, Morris left the meeting, in company with Mavor, 
and next morning returned to London. Though he could 
not fail to observe Nairne's inquisitorial behaviour, he was 
not in the least offended at it, and remarked good-humouredly 
going downstairs : * Our friend Nairne was putting me 
through the catechism a bit, after your Scottish Kirk-Session 
fashion, don't you think ? He is, I fancy, one of those 
comrades who are suspicious of us poetry chaps, and I don't 
blame him. He is in dead earnest, and will keep things 
going, I should say.' 

And Morris was right. Nairne was in dead earnest, 
and kept the Federation going in Glasgow, often almost 
single-handed, till his death twenty years later. By occupa- 
tion he was a day-labourer (a stone breaker), with a wife 
and five children to support, and though industrious and 
a teetotaler his life was a hard and colourless one, and 
poetry and art were trivialities to him. He was class- 
conscious to the last degree. Somewhat sombre in mood, 
and narrow and intolerant in his political creed, he was 
nevertheless of a kindly disposition, a good husband and 
father, and a staunch co-operator and trade unionist. Morris 
afterwards used to ask in a friendly way about him. He, 
more than any other, was the founder and pioneer of the 
Social Democratic Federation in Scotland. 

It was, as I have said, a curious circumstance that 
Morris, as a sequel to his meeting earlier in the evening, 
when his lecture envisaging the glowing hopes of Socialism 
had seemed to captivate the minds of a vast gathering of 
the unregenerate public, should have experienced this sudden 
transition into a small disillusionising assembly of ' elect 
brethren,' muffled in the spiritual pride and exclusiveness 
of the old-world sects. No less curious was it that in the 
person of his Socialist comrade, Nairne, the nemesis of 
labour without art, and life without joy, of which he had 
been speaking, should have been so strikingly personified. 

Yet the mystery of the Word abides. How much of 
the seed sown among the 3000 hearers in the St. Andrews 



34 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Hall took root, and afterwards bore fruit, none can tell. 
But to the eye that great audience melted away into nothing- 
ness, leaving no visible trace, whereas the little group of 
Socialists remained in being and endured, diffusing forth 
such light of Socialism as it had, even if it were only as the 
glow-worm's little ray in the dark. 



CHAPTER V 

HIS COMRADESHIP : TRAITS AND INCIDENTS 

^ 

\ MR. MACKAIL and other writers speak of Morris' dislike 
\ to going into society or taking part in the usual amenities 
<_of social intercourse. He lived, even as he worked, in 
his own way, heeding very little the conventionalities of 
his class or profession. This peculiarity has been noted 
as being a rather singular characteristic in one who laid so 
much emphasis on neighbourliness and mutual aid, and 
who enunciated the axiom that ' Fellowship is life and lack 
of fellowship is death,' and there are those who discover 
in his behaviour indications of an unsocial trait in his nature, 
a disposition of aloofness towards his fellows. 

Therein, I think, Morris is misunderstood. I cannot, 
of course, speak of him from such familiar acquaintance as 
many of his older and more intimate friends enjoyed, but 
so far as my own knowledge of him during the last ten years 
of his life goes, I should say that instead of being in any 
degree of an unsocial or seclusive disposition, he was pre- 
eminently companionable by nature. I find also that in 
the biographies of Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Swinburne, and 
other of his more celebrated associates, he invariably figures 
as a delightful, even if sometimes a somewhat unmanageable, 
companion always he is the leading spirit in the conversa- 
tion and fun of their gatherings. True he displayed intense 
self-willedness so far as concerned his own ways of life and 
his work, and demanded a good deal of home seclusion when 
preoccupied with his writing and his art schemes. His 

35 



36 WILLIAM MORRIS 

dislike, too, of many of the ways of modern life, and especially 
his impatience with the mere banalities of conversation and 
trivialities of politeness that make up so much of the routine 
of conventional society, caused him to shun many of the 
customary modes of social intercourse. But it was the 
ardour and strength of his social feelings, rather than any 
lacking or weakness of amiability in him that caused him 
to detest these conventions. 

In the working class there is, generally speaking, much 
greater freedom of social intercourse, or, at any rate, much 
less routine and rigidity in the customs of friendship and 
civility, than among the middle and upper classes. Men 
and women of the working class may more freely choose 
their companions and company, and are commonly more 
sincere, if sometimes more ungainly, in their modes of 
coming and going amongst their friends. It is noteworthy, 
therefore, that whatever aloofness or exclusiveness, what- 
ever of that element of aristocratic reserve of which Mr 
Mackail speaks, Morris may have shown in his earlier or 
later years amongst his own class, he betrayed not the least 
disposition of that kind in his later years when amongst 
his Socialist comrades of the working class. In these 
associations he exhibited no trace of inurbanity, except 
perhaps a certain shade of shyness at times. On the con- 
trary, he was always esteemed one of the most friendly and 
jolly of comrades. 

It would be an easy and a delightful task for me to 
multiply these pages with incidents bringing into view the 
companionableness and unfailing sense of equality displayed 
by Morris when campaigning with his Socialist comrades, 
whether when amongst those, as at Hammersmith, with 
whom he was personally acquaint, or amongst those up and 
down the country who were for the most part strangers to 
him. So generally known in the movement was his socia- 
bility in this respect that there were few occasions of .his 
visiting branches on his lecturing tours but some sort of a 
special gathering or outing was arranged in order that the 



HIS COMRADESHIP 37 

rank and file of the members might share the enjoyment of 
his company. 

To Morris, who, quite apart from the aversion which his 
Socialist principles gave him toall assertions of class inferiority, 
was ever impatient of mere formalities and gentilities, and 
who had an intense dislike of * lionising ' or being ' on show,' 
it required as a rule no little self-restraint to endure any sort 
of display of personal homage, even when without any taint 
of snobbery. The fact, therefore, that he submitted him- 
self so willingly as he did on those occasions to the fraternal 
exploitation of his fame is striking testimony to the basic 
good-heartedness of his nature. 

One of the many testing experiences of this kind which 
I recall occurred in connection with his visit to Glasgow, 
when he spoke there for the first time under the auspices 
of the newly formed branch of the League. On the Saturday 
preceding the Sunday lecture he was taken on a steamboat 
excursion to Lochgoilhead, in order that he might enjoy 
a glimpse of the scenery of the Clyde, and that at the same 
time members and friends of the branch might have an 
opportunity of making the acquaintance of their distin- 
guished comrade. A function of this kind in which the 
guest is obliged to submit himself to the process of being 
casually introduced to a multitude of strangers, to whom he 
is expected to make himself agreeable and interesting, is a 
trying enough ordeal even to public men who are accustomed 
to, and take a pleasure in, public receptions, but to a man of 
Morris' temperament it is usually a positive torture. Yet 
Morris bore the ordeal, an all-day-long one, magnificently. 
So full of pleasure was he in the thought of serving the move- 
ment in any capacity at all, that I doubt if he felt the task 
of the day's civilities half so irksome as would many a man 
of a more insensitive but much less enthusiastic nature. 
Only when he was pressed rather witlessly by some of the 
younger quidnuncs to give his opinion on much disputed 
questions of art or literature subjects particularly dis- 
tasteful to him in casual conversation did he display signs 



38 WILLIAM MORRIS 

of impatience. Happily, however, the majority of the 
party were content to let Mavor, Craibe Angus, and one 
or two other wiser heads act as the chief spokesmen of the 
company, with the result that we had from Morris many 
delightful discussions, brimful of history, folklore, and stories, 
old and new so that a workman comrade remarked after- 
wards that the trip had been to him * as good as a university 
education.' 

Nor were there lacking some rather droll incidents, 
one of which particularly amused Morris, who chuckled 
over it many a time in after days. Attention had been called 
to the fact that a number of places which the steamboat 
passed on its way, such as Ardmore, Ardentinnie, Ardgoil, 
bore evidence from their names of the Norsemen's settle- 
ment in Scotland. This led Morris to relate one or two 
of the old Norse legends, whereupon one of our comrades, 
a professional man, who had been talking freely to Morris 
about literature, and had conveyed, perhaps unwittingly, the 
impression to all of us that he was familiar with Morris* 
works, stumbled on the remark, ' Have you never thought, 
Mr. Morris, of translating into English verse some of these 
old Norse tales ? I feel sure they would take on with the 
general reader much better than Classic themes which have 
been rather overdone, don't you think, by our poets ? ' 

The maladroitness of such a remark, addressed to one 
of the chief, if not the greatest modern versifier of both 
Norse and Classic themes, was perceived by most, if not all, 
the other listeners, and uncomfortable looks went round. 
Morris, however, beamed with enjoyment of the situation, 
4 But I assure our friend,' he replied, with sly emphasis, 
* that I have thought about it, and have even tried my hand 
at the job. The result, however, has hardly " taken on " 
quite as well with the general reader as our friend supposes 
it would. He is probably right about the Classic business 
being overdone, and I confess myself one of the overdoers.' 
The conversation was mercifully switched on to a different 
topic. 



HIS COMRADESHIP 39 

Another member of the party, a city councillor, who 
was an ardent Henry Georgite, fancied he was making 
himself both entertaining and instructive to our guest, by 
immediately citing from a notebook, which was never out 
of his hand, the rent value of the land in the neighbourhood 
of any part of the landscape on which Morris' eye happened 
for a moment to rest. 

Another friend, an enthusiastic vegetarian, was eager 
to ascertain what the dietetic habits were of Rossetti, Burne- 
Jones, Swinburne, and other men of genius with whom 
Morris was acquaint, and assured Morris that he would find 
his intellect much clearer, and feel fit for twice as much work, 
if he gave up flesh-eating and stimulants ! 

There were, of course, several young aspirants to literary 
and art fame who took occasion to waylay Morris when he 
was by himself, and submit to him examples of their verses 
or specimens of their designs all unconscious, let us hope, 
of the squirming of their victim ! 

Morris, I repeatj bore himself splendidly through all 
this prolonged heckling and harassment, and his forbearance 
never once gave way. Is there, I wonder, any other poet 
or artist of repute who would have endured a similar experi- 
ence with so much patience and good-humour ? I cannot 
think of anyone. Shelley would have fled the steamboat 
at the first port of call ; Wordsworth would have ensconced 
himself on a campstool and gone to sleep ; Tennyson would 
have hidden himself away somewhere if need be, in the 
coal-hole. 

The Lochgoilhead excursion was, however, an excep- 
tional experience. Generally, Morris' experiences of the 
fraternal receptions arranged on the occasion of his visits 
to branches were of a less exacting kind. Even in Glasgow, 
where we were always apt to exploit the fame and zeal of 
our elect brethren to the utmost, we did better on after 
occasions. I remember how wholly delightful was the 
tea-party meeting we held in his honour on his next visit 
the following season. A more enjoyable and appropriate 



40 WILLIAM MORRIS 

little celebration could hardly be wished. We had no lack 
of good singers amongst us, and we offered our guest a feast 
of Scottish song which he acknowledged was a real treat to 
him. He himself read the speech of John Ball at the market- 
place from his own ' Dream of John Ball,' which was then 
appearing in weekly instalments in the Commonweal. He 
read, or rather chanted, that wonderful apologue in a rich, 
solemn strain, as one whose own heart and soul were in 
every word, and such was the effect of the recital that we all 
felt as though it were John Ball himself who was speaking 
to us and we were the yeomen assembled round him and 
were being consecrated with him to the Cause ' even unto 
life or death.' None of those present that evening would 
ever forget how strangely and deeply we were moved by that 
reading. 

Our gathering, though only consisting of a few dozen 
members and friends of the branch, was noteworthily 
international in voice as in sentiment. Leo Melliet, a 
French refugee well known in scholastic circles, who had 
been Mayor and Minister of Justice in the Paris Commune, 
and was one of our earliest supporters in Glasgow, sang the 
' Carmagnole ' with such dramatic effect that we were 
roused to our feet and danced the chorus with him round 
the room. A German comrade, one of a small group of 
German glass-blowers who were members of the branch, 
sang a German workers' song, and a Russian Jew, a cigar- 
maker, sang a Yiddish revolutionary song which to our 
ears sounded as a weird sort of dirge. Between the songs 
we had several short speeches, including one from Morris, 
all pitched on an elated note, rejoicing in the hopes of the 
new civilisation which we were, we believed, bringing into 
birth. 

Questions were put to Morris from all parts of the room 
which drew from him many characteristic sayings and 
stories. Towards the end of the evening Mrs. Neilson, a 
member of the Ruskin Society and our first woman recruit, 
surprised us with a little preceptorial address, in which she 



HIS COMRADESHIP 41 

gently rebuked us for the warlike tone of some of our 
Socialist utterances, and pressed upon us her view that only 
by the extension of the franchise to women could Socialism 
ever be obtained, as men were far too stupid and selfish 
ever to do away with a system that satisfied their fighting 
and predatory instincts. 

This was, I believe, almost the first definitely anti- 
militarist note, and the first sound of the new women's 
agitation that any of us had yet heard. She amused us 
greatly by admonishing Morris quaintly against becoming 
conceited because of his genius and the hero-worship of his 
Socialist comrades ! Morris in reply playfully assured her 
that were she acquaint with his experiences for but one 
week as editor of the Commonweal, or as a member of the 
Council of the League with Joe Lane and Frank Kitz as 
colleagues and monitors, she would have no anxiety lest 
his personal vanity should become unduly inflated. I 
cannot recollect whether he alluded to her remarks about 
the militarist spirit and women's enfranchisement a tell- 
tale forgetfulness on my part. But I doubt if any of us 
realised the prophetic importance of the precepts thus 
pitched upon us by the first woman's utterance in our 
midst. 

Thus the evening sped with us till midnight, when we 
sang * Come, comrades, come,' acclaimed the ' Social 
Revolution,' and dispersed on our various ways home. 
One group of us insisted on convoying our guest to the 
hotel door, chorusing along the streets his own * March 
of the Workers,' and feeling almost persuaded that we were 
destined to forgather some not fkr distant day at the 
barricades ! 

Traditions of similar fellowship gatherings with Morris 
exist in many other towns where branches of the League 
were founded. In every instance his personal association 
with the members appears to have given a richer colouring 
to their idealism and bestowed an imperishable fragrance 
on the sentiment of comradeship in the Socialist cause. 



42 WILLIAM MORRIS 

A halo of enthusiasm glows round his memory among 
the little groups of Socialist League members who still 
survive, such as rarely clings to the memory of any public 
man. I cannot think of any modern movement which 
inherits a more inspiring tradition of apostleship in this 
respect. 

I have to go back to the lives (remote as they be in 
category as in time) of George Fox and William Tyndale, 
and to the legends of the great Celtic teachers, St. Columba, 
St. Cuthbert, St. Aidan (of Lindisfarne), and the Venerable 
Bede to find a like instance of a teacher or leader enshrining 
himself so perfectly in the affections and imagination of his 
friends and disciples. Indeed, I have often when recalling 
my own memories of Morris' visits, such as those described 
in the chapters * A Red-Letter Day ' and ' A Propaganda 
Outing,' and when listening to the recollections of some of 
our older comrades in Hammersmith, Norwich, Bristol, 
Leicester, Manchester, Edinburgh, and other towns, found 
the words in the story of the walk to Emmaus repeat 
themselves in my mind : * Did not our heart burn within 
us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he 
opened to us the scriptures ? ' 



CHAPTER VI 

FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 

FROM the outset to the end of its career the Socialist League 
was harassed with internal trouble. The members of the 
League had, as my readers will remember, split away from 
the Social Democratic Federation, chiefly on the ground 
that as revolutionary Socialists they could take no part in 
parliamentary agitation at any rate not until Socialism 
had so far ripened in the country that Parliament could 
be made the means of precipitating the social revolution. 
Nevertheless, almost as soon as the League was formed a 
considerable section of its members in London began a 
campaign inside its ranks to get parliamentary action in- 
cluded among its avowed means of agitation. And again, 
no sooner was this body of disturbers finally compelled to 
withdraw from the League after a few years of incessant 
strife than an Anarchist faction began to afflict the League 
in a kindred way by stirring up dissension in order to get 
the League to declare itself an Anarchist organisation. 

These troubles, particularly as the dissentients pursued 
their agitation with acerbity and recourse to intrigue and 
personal accusation, worried and vexed Morris. So much 
so, indeed, that eventually the irritation of it all greatly 
lessened his pleasure in working inside the League, and 
so led to the breaking up of the League altogether. 

It was in the Whitsuntide of 1888, when the parlia- 
mentarian faction had attained a sufficient following in 
London to give their efforts to capture the League some 

43 



44 WILLIAM MORRIS 

promise of success, that I went to London in order to attend 
the Annual Conference of the League, and visited Morris 
at his house in Hammersmith. 

Several weeks before the Conference, Morris had become 
so much alarmed lest the dissentients should carry the day 
that he wrote me urging me to get the Glasgow branch 
to send me or some other delegate to the Conference to 
withstand the assault. 

How paltry now seem the circumstances that caused 
Morris so much perturbation ! How lamentable, one is 
inclined to exclaim, that the powers of one of the most 
richly gifted minds of modern days should have been tor- 
mented with such trivial and wholly distasteful wranglings ! 
Yet too much has perhaps been made of that aspect of the 
matter. I am not at all convinced that Morris was really 
harmed by the experience. I think in some ways the 
intimate acquaintance which it gave him with the difficulties 
of political organisation and the recalcitrancy of some of 
his fellow-men, together with the sense of the helplessness 
of all his powers to meet the situation, produced a certain 
shade of work-a-day humility and patience in him that 
mellowed and enriched his character. 

This is, I think, acknowledged by Mr. Mackail in his 
* Life of Morris,' and while it is true that in the end these 
experiences contributed to his retirement from the active 
ranks of the movement, they were assuredly not the sole 
cause of his so doing. Besides, I am persuaded that in the 
six or eight years of his active apostleship he gave the best 
that was in him to give for the immediate propaganda of 
Socialism ; and that had he continued to work in the move- 
ment as he had been doing he would have effected very 
little result, and might have suffered the loss of that high 
idealism which, happily as it was, he preserved to the end. 

Nor let us forget that his experience of the faction 
wranglings in the movement (which are by no means so 
merely fractious or so sterilizing as they often appear to be) 
was one which has been ordained for all pioneers and re- 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 45 

formers. Think of St. Paul's heart-breaking worries with 
the Churches which were the ' children of his own loins.' 

To come, however, to my visit to Morris at Hammer- 
smith. 

I arrived in London on the Saturday afternoon. Morris 
had suggested to me that as he would not be at home till 
about six o'clock in the evening, I might, should I arrive 
earlier in the day, look in and have a glance at the Art 
Exhibition in the New Gallery. This I did, and as we 
shall afterwards see, it led me into an extraordinary 
experience. 

On my arrival at Kelmscott House, Morris immediately 
came from his study on the ground floor, and after welcoming 
me cordially, took me up to my bedroom on one of the 
upper floors, and, leaving me there for a few moments, 
returned to introduce me to the * inhabitants.' * Here is 
our Scotchman, but he hasn't come in kilts nor brought 
bagpipes with him,' said he to Mrs. Morris, who was 
seated on the famous settle which stood out from the fire- 
place, doing some embroidery work. She rose and greeted 
me. I had, of course, heard of her great beauty, and had 
seen her portrait in some of the reproductions of Rossetti's 
pictures, but I confess I felt rather awed as she stood up 
tall before me, draped in one simple white gown which fell 
from her shoulders down to her feet. She looked a veritable 
Astarte a being, as I thought, who did not quite belong 
to our common mortal mould. After greeting me she 
resumed her embroidery and listened with amusement to 
Morris' playful chaff. 

'It's lucky for us/ continued Morris, 'that Glasier 
is not a stickler for the ancient customs of his country ; 
for in my young days we were told that Scotchmen ate 
nothing but porridge, drank nothing but whisky, and sang 
one another to sleep with the Psalms of David.' 

He pursued this playful vein for a little, giving Mrs. 
Morris an exaggerated account of some of his experiences 
in Scotland of the ' wild ways of the Picts.' Mrs. Morris 



46 WILLIAM MORRIS 

glanced at me occasionally, as if to assure me that she was not 
being taken in by his stories. * He is quite naughty some- 
times,' was her only remark. He then snowed us an old book 
he had just bought, containing a diary, cooking receipts, 
and domestic accounts of some Squire's lady of the sixteenth 
century, and read with amusing comments some of the 
items. 

While listening to him I was scanning with great 
interest the furnishings of the room. I had observed on 
entering its large size, its five windows looking over the 
Thames, and the simplicity and beauty of its furnishings. 
I experienced, as every visitor I am sure must have done, 
a delightful sense of garden-like freshness and bloom in 
the room. Noticing my interest in the things about me, 
Morris briefly described some of them. The handsome 
canopied settle on which Mrs. Morris was sitting was, 
he said, one of the earliest productions of the firm of Morris 
& Company, and the highly decorated wardrobe at the 
end of the room with painted figures was painted by Burne- 
Jones, and was his wedding gift to Morris. 

Jenny, the eldest daughter, now came in, and we were 
served with a cup of tea, after which Morris took me down- 
stairs to the library to have a smoke and talk about League 
business before supper. 

Well do I remember the joy I felt as I sat down with 
him in that incomparable room. Destitute of furniture, 
except the big plain table and a few chairs, the floor of 
bare boards without any carpet, and bookshelves all round 
the room laden with all manner of books, new and old, 
and great antique tomes on the lower row, the place 
seemed to me a perfect realisation of a poet's and crafts- 
man's den. The table itself was a joy for ever : a bare, 
white polished board, upon which were spread in fine 
disarray books, manuscripts, designs, a large ink-bowl 
with quill pens, tobacco pipes many, a tobacco jar filled 
with his favourite Latakia, drawing instruments, engraved 
blocks, and other delightful things. It was the sheer 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 47 

antithesis of a housemaid's pride. Morris invited me to 
help myself to a pipe and tobacco, doing so himself by way 
of example. The pipes were of various kinds, cherry- 
wood, briar, and clay j he himself preferred the briar. 

So here I was with William Morris in the room where 
he had written so many of his famous poems, and worked 
out so many of his famous designs. How happy I was ! 
I felt an enchantment in the place. Morris talked of 
the morrow's Conference, informing me of the most 
recent tactics of the dissentients to carry their parliamentary 
resolution. He spoke without anger, but with a sense of 
depression. 

* For the life of me,' he said, * I can't see what possible 
object they can have in all this business of theirs. If 
they succeed (as of course they won't, this time at any 
rate, for we are assured of a majority), then I and our side 
will leave the League : and what then ? We have all 
the speakers that count, we have the Commonweal, and I 
have the money more's the pity, maybe. They will 
have a few penniless branches, and no object or policy to 
justify their existence separate from the S.D.F. It is a 
sheer faction racket just such as school-boys indulge 
in when they split into factions in order to fight each 
other for no rhyme or reason, save the love of the squabble ; 
all of which is perhaps natural enough as a means of 
self-development on the part of school-boys, as doubtless 
Herbert Spencer has taken the pains somewhere in his 
books to explain ; but it is rather disconcerting to find 
foolishness of this kind among grown-up and otherwise 
intelligent men, masquerading as service for the Socialist 
cause.' 

He turned then to interest me in some of his books, 
and explained to me the history of the Diirer wood- 
engravings and other prints on the walls. 

May Morris now arrived. I was greatly interested 
to meet her ; I had heard so much about her beauty 
and her activities in the movement. She resembled her 



48 WILLIAM MORRIS 

mother, I thought, more than her father in face, and was 
strikingly handsome. Her manner was quiet, and she 
was, I observed, inclined rather to ask questions or listen 
than to offer opinions of her own. She worked at a piece 
of embroidery as she sat with us. 

Then came one or two friends, including Emery 
Walker, the well-known engraver, an intimate friend 
and secretary of the Hammersmith Branch of the League, 
Philip Webb, the architect, and Tarleton, a leading member 
of the branch, and we went into the dining-room for 
supper. 

The dining-room (the ceiling two floors high) lit 
up with large candles on brass or copper candlesticks 
(Morris used candles only in the house he detested gas- 
light) was magnificently grand in its glow of colour 
derived from the Morris Acanthus wall-paper, and a great 
gorgeous Persian carpet hung up like a canopy on one 
side of the room. Opposite, over the fireplace, was 
Rossetti's noble portrait of Mrs. Morris, and on one side 
of the large window crayon drawings by Rossetti of Jenny 
and May Morris. There were one or two other Rossetti 
crayon drawings on the wall. These, I think, were the 
only pictures in the room, and indeed there were few 
pictures on the walls, so far as I observed, anywhere in the 
house, other than the Durer and a few other engravings 
and sketches in the entrance and library, for Morris 
did not * believe in ' making houses look like art galleries. 
The decorations of a room should be part of their needful 
architectural furnishings only. 

So we seated ourselves on either side of the huge grey 
oaken dining-table, with Morris at the head, who saw to 
it that we partook liberally of the feast, while he enticed 
us into his happy mood with amusing chat and stories, 
addressing one or other of us in turn, so as to share 
the conversation round. Mrs. Morris rarely spoke, but 
Morris constantly referred his remarks to her with gentle 
courtesy and affection. 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 49 

After supper Morris brought us back to the library, 
where we smoked and chatted till towards eleven o'clock, 
when the other guests departed. He sat with me about 
half an hour longer, then filling my hands with books 
to have something to read in my bedroom, he expressed 
his pleasure at my coming up to the Conference, and 
wished me a jolly night's rest. 

The next morning Whit-Sunday I was wakened 
with the singing and trurnpetings of steamer-loads of 
holiday seekers making for Kew Gardens, Hampton 
Court Palace, and Richmond, and the merry tumult of 
boating parties on the river. The sunshine was streaming 
across my bed and seemed laden with the festive din. This 
was my first Whit-Sunday experience in London, and 
I recall the impression of public joyousness in English life 
which the sound of this outside merriment made upon 
my Scottish mind. Morris himself was early astir, and 
came to see that I was all right and getting up. * This 
is the morning of battle for us,' he said ; ' miserable kind 
of battle though it be, it is imposed upon us, and we must 
not be late for the fray.' 

Breakfast over, we were joined in the library by Walker, 
Tarleton, and several other comrades, delegates from the 
Hammersmith and neighbouring branches, and were soon, 
including May Morris, on our way, journeying by 'bus 
from the Broadway to Farringdon Road, where the head- 
quarters of the League then were, and where the 
Conference was held. It is not my intention to give an 
account of the Conference proceedings, the details of which 
have passed from my memory, and, in any case, now 
possess no interest. It is enough to say that the discussion, 
or rather wrangling, continued the whole day from 10.30 
in the morning till nearly 10 o'clock at night, with a 
break at lunch-time and tea-time. Ernest Radford was, 
I remember, chairman, and among those present was 
Belfort Bax. 

Almost every delegate present put in one or more 



50 WILLIAM MORRIS 

speeches. I cannot remember if Morris spoke in the 
debate, but when the parliamentarian resolution was 
eventually voted down about nine in the evening, he rose 
and made a deeply earnest appeal for unity and good-will 
all round. Mrs. Morris had expressed misgivings lest 
he should lose his temper at the Conference. He had 
promised her, however, that he would really behave 
himself and be a model * good boy,' and he unquestionably 
kept his word though, as he admitted, not without 
difficulty at times. 

On our homeward journey he was in high spirits, 
partly as a reaction from the strain of the long day's 
wrangling and his self- repression, and partly because, as 
he said, ' the damned business was over at least for another 
year.' At supper table he requested May Morris and 
myself to bear testimony to Mrs. Morris that he had 
* never once lost his temper or said a choleric word.' Mrs. 
Morris expressed herself as very glad of it. 

Morris and the rest of our male selves sat up till 
midnight in the library, chatting over the events of the 
day and considering how to improve the propaganda work 
of the League. When the others had gone, Morris pro- 
posed that he should accompany me to my bedroom and 
read a bit of * Huckleberry Finn ' to me before going to 
sleep. * It will get the nasty taste of to-day's squabbling 
out of our minds,' he said. Needless to say I welcomed 
the proposal gladly, not dreaming what a tempestuous 
experience it was going to bring upon me. 

Closing the bedroom door, and seating himself by 
the large candle on the dressing-table, Morris began turning 
over the leaves of the book in order to select a chapter to 
begin with. Having fixed upon a page, he was about to 
start off reading when he said abruptly : ' By the way, 
I forgot to ask you about your visit to the New Gallery 
Exhibition yesterday afternoon. What did you think of 
the Burne- Jones' pictures ? ' 

Now the fact was that in those days I knew very little 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 51 

about modern paintings : and of Burne-Jones' paintings 
I had only seen one or two photographic reproductions, 
and knew really nothing about his style or principles of 
art. As it happened, the only one of his pictures in the 
New Gallery which I had particularly noticed was his 
* Sea Nymph ' a picture which, I think, exceeds any 
other of his works in its challenging unconventionality. 
The sea is depicted in quite an archaic fashion as a child 
might do, by mere curved interlacing bands of green colour, 
without any attempt to represent the actual form of water 
or wave. So I said in a blundering kind of way that I 
had observed this picture, but hardly knew what to say 
about it. It seemed to me as if the artist was trying to 
imitate some very early style of art rather than nature 
itself. 

Then the heavens burst open, and lightning and thunder 
fell upon me. Hardly had I completed my sentence than 
Morris was on his feet, storming words upon me that 
shook the room. His eyes flamed as with actual fire, his 
shaggy mane rose like a burning crest, his whiskers and 
moustache bristled out like pine-needles. 

I was seated on the edge of the bed, and was too 
astounded at first to comprehend what he said, or what 
had aroused his extraordinary passion. But I soon realised 
that I had been guilty of a mortal offence in what I 
had said about Burne-Jones' picture, though whether the 
offence lay wholly, or chiefly, in my seeming disparage- 
ment of Burne-Jones, or, as is quite likely, in the display 
of what he conceived to be my own and the popular 
ignorance about art, I do not to this day know. 

He poured forth an amazing torrent of invective 
against the whole age. * Art forsooth ! ' he cried, ' where the 
hell is it ? Where the hell are the people who know or care 
a damn about it ? This infernal civilisation has no capacity 
to understand either nature or art. People have no eyes 
to see, no ears to hear. The only thing they understand 
is how to enslave their fellows or be enslaved by them 



52 WILLIAM MORRIS 

grubbing a life lower than that of the brutes. Children 
and savages have better wits than civilised mankind to-day. 
Look at your West End art the damnable architecture, 
the damnable furniture, and the detestable dress of men 
and women. Look at the damnable callosity of the rich 
and educated who swill themselves in the rottenness of 
their wealth in the face of the horrible want and misery 
of the poor : and the poor who not only suffer the misery 
and insult of it, but grovel before the ruffians who souse 
them in it. They haven't the sense or pluck of rabbits. 
But we must " think about environment ! " oh, must 
we ! Damn environment ! Don't think if the devil 
pulls me by the ears I'm going to hell with him without 
kicking his shins.' 

In this strain he continued for I don't know how long, 
flashing his wrath in my face, and moving round the room 
like a caged lion. For a time I felt as though I had 
in some way merited his terrible outburst, but I remember 
recovering my wits and sitting back in the bed, saying to 
myself * Well, be he ever so much a great man of genius, 
he is really misbehaving badly towards me as his guest. 
I simply won't mind him let him blaze away.' But I 
believe he was for the time being oblivious of me except 
that I was one of mankind. He was really in a sort of 

* prophecy ' against the scarlet woman of civilisation, and 
although I had been unwittingly the cause of his frenzy, 
I was not the object of it. Eventually there was a tap at 
the bedroom door, and it was opened slightly from the 
outside, and a voice expostulated : 4 Really, the whole 
house is awakened. What is the matter ? Do speak 
more quietly and let us get to sleep.' 

This interruption acted as an exorcism. Morris 
quietened down as suddenly as he had flared up. He lifted 

* Huckleberry Finn,' which he had tossed on the bed in 
the course of his fulmination, and making a turn round 
the room, he offered me his hand in a most friendly 
manner, remarking simply: ' I have been going it a bit 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 53 

loudly don't you think ? I hope I have not upset you 
I didn't mean to do that and that you will have a 
sound sleep. Good night and good luck.' 

Next morning he came again to waken me at seven 
o'clock, and was as cheery and charming as man could be. 
Later on in the drawing-room I prostrated myself before 
Mrs. Morris, pleading : 

* Forgive htm I was really not the culprit, though 
it seems most unchivalrous on my part to say so.' 

' Oh, I know it was not your fault, you don't need to 
tell me,' she said, and added half-reproachfully, looking at 
her husband : * I knew when I heard him boasting last 
night of his good behaviour at the Conference that some- 
body would have to pay for it.' Morris looked a bit 
shamefaced, but affected not to acknowledge his delin- 
quency, and appealed to me that we were merely having 
* a little chat over art matters.' His daughter Jenny 
said ' Oh, you wicked, good father,' and put her arms 
round his neck. 

And now observe the characteristic sequel. An 
excursion of the Hammersmith Branch was to take place 
that day to Box Hill. Morris had agreed to go ; many 
of his personal friends were joining in the expedition, and 
he was set for one of the sides in a cricket match. On 
the previous evening he had explained about it to me, 
and had asked me to join the party ; but as I had to be back 
in Scotland early on the Tuesday morning, and was bound 
to leave London by six in the evening at latest, I could 
not go. Whereupon he expressed his regret at having 
to leave me alone by myself, and invited me to make the 
freest use of his library and his writing material if I wished 
to do so, and alternatively offered me tickets for several 
Art Exhibitions in the town. 

But he had decided to change his plans. On being 
reminded by his daughter May that it was time he was 
getting ready for the outing, he informed her that he was 
not going. 



54 WILLIAM MORRIS 

' But you promised to go, and they are all expecting 
you,' she urged. 

* Yes, my dear, but man, as you know, is a self-willed 
animal, and I have decided 'tis my duty no less than my 
pleasure to stay here and play the host properly to my 
guest, who has come all the way from a foreign country 
at my request and goes back to-night.' 

And stay for my sake he did, and gave up the whole 
day to entertaining me in all manner of ways. He took 
me for a row upon the river, and on our return after lunch 
he sat with me in the garden a long orchard glade with 
lawn, fruit trees, and flowers behind the house telling 
me of the change that had taken place in fruit and vegetable 
cultivation from the olden days, and giving me many 
curious instances of the feasting habits in the monasteries. 
Afterwards he sat smoking with me in the library, showing 
many of his rare book treasures, drawing my attention 
to the pages of illumination and typography, and reading 
to me one of the chapters in manuscript of his forthcoming 
first volume of prose romances, * The House of the Wolfings,' 
upon which he was then engaged. He then settled him- 
self down to tell me a number of droll experiences in con- 
nection with the business side of his work, and stories of 
Bell Scott, Swinburne, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and other 
of his more notable friends. Two of these I particularly 
recall. One was of Sir John Millais, and was intended 
as a sly dig at my Scottish vanity (Morris always believed, 
or pretended to believe, that I was intensely patriotic as a 
Scotsman, and liked to tease me about Scotland). Lady 
Millais, he explained, was a Perthshire woman, and was, he 
said, somewhat of a strict Sabbatarian, and, he added slyly, 
* much addicted to the economical virtues of your country- 
men.' One Sunday Sir John was playing in the garden 
with the children, when he heard Lady Millais' voice from 
one of the windows call * John, John ! ' * What is it, 
my dear ? ' asked he The reply came, * If you will break 
the Sabbath, you might as well be doing something useful, 



FIRST VISIT TO KELMSCOTT HOUSE 55 

and come in and paint.' Morris chuckled as he emphasised 
the words. The other story was of Holman Hunt, who 
spent several years out in Palestine getting local colour 
for his Scriptural paintings. Hunt, Morris said, knew the 
Arabic tongue well, but for reasons of personal safety 
pretended not to know it, in order to hear the Mussulmans 
talk freely among themselves. One day, as he was encamped 
by the Dead Sea, painting in the mountain landscape 
of his picture * The Scapegoat,' a number of Arabs 
gathered round him and watched him paint with great 
surprise and curiosity for painting, or the making of 
images of ' anything in the Heavens above or the Earth 
beneath,' is strictly forbidden in the Mohammedan religion. 
They could not at all understand the purpose of Hunt's 
sitting there for hours, painting bit by bit the mountains 
beyond, and offered each other all manner of extraordinary 
explanations of the artist's conduct. At last one of them, 
with an air of triumph, exclaimed ' I understand it, I under- 
stand it ! He has discovered that there is gold in the rocks, 
and he is putting the rocks into that frame so that when he 
takes it to England he may extract the gold out of them \ ' 
This quaint explanation (which Morris added had perhaps 
more truth in it than they were aware of !) was acclaimed 
delightedly by the Arabs. 

One of his stories about his business affairs concerned 
a former manager of the firm, Warington Taylor, who 
was, Morris said, a strangely silent and reserved man. Until 
this manager came Morris had never, so he said, understood 
whether the business was paying its way or not ; but this 
man every year at Christmas time gave him a statement 
of accounts, which always included a sort of ' budget,' or of 
what Morris' own outlays during the next year ought to 
be, even to quite personal details such as so much for 
wine, so much for books, for benevolence, and so on. Morris 
never knew whether the manager was at all inclined 
favourably towards Socialism, but when he died suddenly 
a curious thing came to light. Morris had to examine 



56 WILLIAM MORRIS 

some of the papers left in the manager's private desk, and 
among them noticed the draft of an estimate which he 
(the manager) had sent for some proposed decorations in 
a church. Morris had always wondered why the decora- 
tions had never been ordered from his firm, especially as 
the Vicar of the church was a personal friend of his own, 
so he now scanned the estimate with some curiosity to see 
if there was any very obvious overcharge in it. What was 
his surprise to find in the estimate, underneath the items : 
' To providing a silk and gold altar cloth, so much,' the 
proviso, written in the manager's own hand : 

' Note. In consideration of the fact that the above item 
is a wholly unnecessary and inexcusable extravagance at 
a time when thousands of poor people in this so-called 
Christian country are in want of food additional charge 
to that set forth above, ten pounds.' 

' That,' said Morris, * at once explained our not getting 
the order ; but I was more than delighted that the chap 
had done it. You see,' he added with a chuckle, * I had 
succeeded in making the dear old chap something of 
a Socialist after all ! ' 

In this way the afternoon passed, Morris bestowing 
his whole attention upon me. I felt deeply touched to 
think how generously eager he was to make happy in every 
way my remembrance of my visit. When eventually 
I had to leave for my train, he insisted on stuffing my pockets 
inside and out with cigars and nuts and fruits ; he wanted 
to give me a flask of whisky or brandy * in case of accidents/ 
and that I should accept the loan of a rug for my night 
journey. He walked with me down to the Broadway and 
saw me off at the underground station, loading me with 
magazines from the bookstall, and assuring me that my 
visit had been a joy to him. 

Thus ended my first visit to Kelmscott House, and 
aglow with the delight of it I returned as happy as though 
I had been endowed with the richest estate in the land. 



CHAPTER VII 

A PICNIC ON THE THAMES 

ALTHOUGH denied the enjoyment of the holiday excursion 
to Box Hill with Morris and our Hammersmith comrades, 
as stated in the foregoing chapter, I was fortunate in 
having a more privileged outing with him on another 
occasion. Holiday expeditions were one of Morris* 
favourite enjoyments. He was remarkably fond of any 
kind of outdoor recreation which he could share with 
his friends ; and considering his extraordinary zest for 
work and how constantly busy was his whole life, it is 
surprising how much pastime and holidaying he succeeded 
in snatching from the hours and days as they passed. He 
seemed ever ready for some diversion or adventure ; and 
even during the most strenuous period of his Socialist 
agitation we have constant glimpses in his letters of his 
relaxing himself in some outing or amusement. 

The occasion I am about to speak of was in the summer, 
I think, of 1889, when I spent a few days at Kelmscott 
House. Morris had written me, urging me to come on 
the Friday evening, or at latest on the Saturday morning, 
in order to join in a picnic trip on the river. ' Come on 
Saturday if you can,' he wrote, ' and you may have another 
opportunity of showing your disgust at the scenery of the 
pock-puddings of the South ' an allusion to my having 
spoken disparagingly of the scenery of the Home Counties 
in retaliation for his having said that there were * no rivers 
in Scotland, only some mountain torrents.' 

57 



58 WILLIAM MORRIS 

I arrived at the Mall in time for breakfast on the 
Saturday morning, and Morris was as gleesome as a school- 
boy at the prospect of the day's expedition. About ten 
o'clock Ernest Radford came along and announced that 
the boat was ready for us at the little water-gate directly 
in front of the house. 

* And we are ready for it, don't you think ? ' Morris 
chuckled, pointing to the heap of provisions gathered on 
the table. * Now for a fair divide of the load.' 

Our party consisted of Radford, Emery Walker, Jenny 
Morris, Morris, and myself. We looked a miniature 
commissariat corps as we filed out of the house down to 
the jetty ! Morris, who insisted on carrying the bulkiest 
packages himself, seemed expanded to twice his usual 
dimensions. His jacket pockets bulged out hugely with 
two long bottles of wine, and a satchel stowed with 
eatables was slung over his shoulder. Each of us carried 
a package of some sort, and I feel sure the youngsters who 
watched our embarkation fancied we were going on a 
week's voyage at least ! 

Radford and Morris took the oars ; Morris divesting 
himself of his coat, so warm and breezeless was the 
morning. The tide was with us, and our little craft sped 
up the river like an arrow. Morris was brimful of chat 
about the scenery on the banks, and entertained us with 
all manner of allusions to incidents and persons associated 
with the various parts of the river. He wanted us to sing, 
suggesting some old seafaring * chanties,' and as none of 
us seemed in a vocal mood, he hummed rhymes to himself 
as he swung his oars. 

Arriving at a point of the river near Richmond which 
had been fixed upon as the place of disembarkation, the 
boat was drawn in to the bank and duly made fast. We 
unloaded our provisions on the grassy slope, and Morris 
at once took upon himself the duties of Master of Cere- 
monies. He insisted on doing everything himself opening 
the packages, laying out the plates, knives and forks, and 



A PICNIC ON THE THAMES 59 

glasses, and uncorking the wine bottles. What a feast 
was spread before us on the white linen napkins on the 
grass ! rolls of bread and pats of butter, veal-and-ham 
pies, boiled eggs, nuts, pears, and a delectable salad com- 
pounded by his own hands, three bottles of wine, and I 
know not what else. It seemed enough for a company 
of twenty, yet not many basketfuls were left over when 
we had had our will with them. And all the time Morris 
kept our fancy on the wing with stories and curious lore, 
and droll comments on the comestibles he had laid before 
us. He took delight in gently teasing his daughter Jenny, 
ascribing imaginary sayings to her as the repository of the 
wisdom and foibles of her sex ; and in speaking to me, 
or of me, as the fellow-countryman and friend of * William 
Wallace wight/ John Knox, Rob Roy, or other Scottish 
celebrities, displaying, I confess, an acquaintance with 
incidents and characters in Scottish history and Walter 
Scott's novels well beyond my range. 

Our lunch over, we were about to gather up the un- 
broken remainder of the feast, when Morris, noticing a 
group of children lingering near by and eyeing our pro- 
ceedings enviously, invited them to the freedom of our 
table, an invitation which they accepted with manifest 
surprise and delight. 

We then went up Richmond Hill. Morris had pro- 
mised me that I should see from the Hill one of the most 
beautiful landscape views of its kind anywhere in England 
or elsewhere to be seen, and he observed me with quite 
boyish expectation as I looked round the beautiful sweep 
of the river and the wonderful curves of spreading meadow 
and woodland fading away into the luxurious haze of the 
afternoon. In a perverse way I affected to be quite unim- 
pressed by the scene, and his disappointment was so evident 
that I immediately repented myself of my affectation and 
acknowledged the great beauty of it. We lolled for an 
hour or more on the bank of the hill, Morris and Radford 
recalling snatches of poetry relating to the country within 



60 WILLIAM MORRIS 

view, and contrasting passages from the Greek poets with 
those of our English poets on landscape themes. They 
spoke also about pictures of the scene by Turner, Constable, 
Linnell, and other artists, Morris expressing himself 
emphatically, as was his wont, for or against them, but 
always with some reason annexed which showed how keen 
was his discernment of their respective qualities and how 
far from mere whim was his judgment of them. 

Some arrangement being made for the return of the 
boat which I cannot recall, we ourselves returned by way 
of Richmond and Kew, Morris taking a pleasure in buying 
' Maids of Honour ' (a famed delicacy of the place) for 
Jenny. His devotion to her all the way was beautiful to 
see. We rambled a good deal among the quainter parts of 
Kew, and eventually took the train home about eight o'clock 
in the evening. 

In the adjoining compartment of the railway carriage 
(the compartments were partitioned only half-way up) there 
was a crowd of boys, who made a great row, singing schoolboy 
catches and thumping with sticks on the floor and partition. 
Morris at once caught up the spirit of their frolic, and much 
to Jenny's disapproval (which was, I suspect, assumed as 
part of her role, for the occasion, of a well-bred daughter 
with an obstreperous father) thumped back to them through 
the partition and joined in their singing, keeping time 
with them by pounding his feet on the floor. 

At Kelmscott House an interesting company gathered 
in the library that night. Philip Webb, Carruthers, Bernard 
Shaw, Sydney Olivier, Walter Crane and Andreas Scheu, 
Walker and Radford. I do not remember if the gathering 
was a chance one, or if there was some project under 
consideration. But not elsewhere in all the land I fancy 
was there such wonderful conversation let loose between 
four walls that evening. 



CHAPTER VIII 

A RED-LETTER DAY 

SUNDAY, March 25, 1888, was a memorable day for~our 
Socialist League group in Glasgow. Then it was that 
Morris, who had come on one of his lecturing visits, spent 
a whole day long with us in our branch rooms, giving us 
such a full feast, so to speak, of himself, his Socialism, 
and his outlook on life, that the occasion has remained for 
myself and many who were present one of our most delight- 
ful memories of the Socialist movement. I must, therefore, 
try to make some record of it, though I cannot hope to do 
more than convey in outline the impression which the day's 
experience had upon our minds, for so much of the pleasure 
and inspiration which we derived from it depended on the 
intense glow of Morris' personality, on his spoken words, 
and on his striking modes of expression and manner, which 
my pen cannot reproduce. 

Our gathering consisted of about a couple of dozen of 
the active workers in the branch, together with a few 
outside sympathisers. Among the latter were D. M. 
(now Sir Daniel) Stevenson and his brother R. A. M. 
Stevenson, the artist, J. P. Macgillivray, sculptor, Craibe 
Angus, art dealer, W. R. M. Thomson, patent agent, 
Dr. Dyer, late Principal of an engineering college in 
Japan, and William Jolly, H.M. Inspector of Schools. 

It was a cold, wettish, wintry morning, and the occasional 
flakes of snow boded ill for our public meeting in the evening. 
Nevertheless, when we were all gathered together about 

61 



62 WILLIAM MORRIS 

10.30 in the morning in the branch room with a blazing 
fire, cheerfulness filled the place. A long table ran the 
length of the room, at the head of which Morris sat under 
the window. Our conversation began at once. We 
appointed no chairman, but Mavor offered our guest a few 
words of welcome on behalf of the meeting, and invited 
him to speak. Whereupon Morris rose and gave a short 
address on the principles of the Socialist League, and on 
its doings in London, particularly with reference to the 
Free Speech troubles which were then exciting political 
interest. This done, Morris invited those present to ply 
him with questions as freely as they wished, either on the 
matter of his address or on any aspect of Socialism or the 
movement. * I shall,' he said, * most gladly answer any 
question put to me, if I can ; if I cannot, I hope some other 
of our comrades will try his hand at it. But I also want 
you, on your part, to tell me something about the movement 
in Scotland : what your special difficulties are in getting 
people to accept Socialism ; and what your ideas are about 
how to push the movement ahead.' 

There was no lack of questions. At first the topics 
bore closely on Socialism the policy of the League, and 
the more puzzling objections to Socialism which Socialists 
had to encounter in those days but soon the scope of 
enquiry broadened out into the whole field of industry, 
politics, history, art, and literature. Whatever the nature 
of the question, Morris replied with unfailing willingness, 
even when, as in some instances, the question was of a 
directly personal nature, such as ' Why don't you carry out 
your Socialist principles in connection with your own 
business ? ' * Why does the firm of Morris & Co. object 
to advertise its manufactures ? ' * Do you dress uncon- 
ventionally as you do in a blue-serge suit and discard white 
linen on principle as a Socialist or as a craftsman, or simply 
as a matter of personal taste ? ' these latter questions 
coming from the visitors. 

For fully two hours Morris submitted himself to this 



A RED-LETTER DAY 63 

interrogation with the utmost good-nature ; constantly 
refilling and lighting his pipe and occasionally taking a few 
puffs from it. At times he would rise from his seat and 
bestride himself in front of the fireplace, restlessly, as was 
his custom, balancing himself now on one foot, now on 
the other. It were vain my attempting to give even the 
substance of what was in fact a two hours' discourse. Nor 
can I, as I have said, attempt to convey any adequate im- 
pression of the richness of ideas, the variety of illustrations 
from history and his own experiences, the amusing sallies, 
and occasional fiery outbursts against existing conditions 
of civilisation which outpoured in his replies. How 
unfailingly humane and generous were all his views of life ! 
how idealistic his hopes of what Society might be, and yet 
how rightdown practical were all his references to the 
actual means and measures of changing the present system ! 

As an example of how closely he tackled the argumen- 
tative side of questions, I might instance his reply to the 
question * Does not revolutionary Socialism involve Anar- 
chism ? ' It was one of the longest of his replies, and the 
subject was one concerning which he felt strongly. I give 
as nearly as I can recall the actual words he used. 

* I call myself a revolutionary Socialist,' said Morris, 
* because I aim at a complete revolution in social conditions. 
I do not aim at reforming the present system, but at abolish- 
ing it ; and I aim, therefore, not at reforms, either on their 
own account, or as a means of bringing about Socialism as 
the eventual outcome of a series of palliations and modifi- 
cations of Capitalistic society : I aim at bringing about 
Socialism itself right away, or, rather, as soon as we can 
get the people to desire and will to have it. But, mark you 
again, what I aim at is Socialism or Communism, not 
Anarchism. Anarchism and Communism, notwithstanding 
our friend Kropotkin, are incompatible in principle. Anar- 
chism means, as I understand it, the doing away with, and 
doing without, laws and rules of all kinds, and in each 
person being allowed to do mst as he pleases. I don't 



64 WILLIAM MORRIS 

want people to do just as they please ; I want them to con- 
sider and act for the good of their fellows for the common- 
weal in fact. Now what constitutes the commonweal, or 
common notion of what is for the common good, will and 
always must be expressed in the form of laws of some 
kind either political laws, instituted by the citizens in 
public assembly, as of old by folk-moot, or if you 
will by real councils or parliaments of the people, or by 
social customs growing up from the experience of Society 
The fact that at present many or the majority of laws and 
customs are bad, does not mean that we can do without 
good laws or good customs. When I think of my own work 
and duties as a citizen, a neighbour or friend, a workman 
or an artist, I simply cannot think of myself as behaving or 
doing right if I shut out from my mind the knowledge I 
possess of social customs or decrees concerning what is 
right-doing or wrong-doing. I am not going to quibble 
over the question as to the difference between laws and 
customs. I don't want cither laws or customs to be too 
rigid, and certainly not oppressive at all. Whenever they 
so become, then I become a rebel against them, as I am 
against many of the laws and customs to-day. But I don't 
think a Socialist community will require many govern- 
mental laws ; though each citizen will require to conform 
as far as possible to the general understanding of how we 
are to live and work harmoniously together. But, frankly 
and flatly, I reckon customs, if they are bad customs, to 
be always more oppressive and difficult to get rid of than 
political laws. If you violate political laws you have the 
policeman and the soldiers, maybe, against you, but when 
you violate social customs you have the whole of the com- 
munity against you. In the one case you may be regarded 
as a criminal and fined, imprisoned, or even put to death, 
any of which contingencies is bad enough no doubt ; but 
in the other case you are regarded as a churl, a kill-joy, 
a bigot, a humbug, and unless you are a thick-skinned 
wretch, or are sustained by a powerful sense of conscience 



A RED-LETTER DAY 65 

and duty, as you can only be on really very big matters, 
your life may be made wholly tasteless and intolerable both 
to you and your friends. And what is life worth then ? 
In a word then, I tell you I am not an anarchist, and I had 
as lief join the White Rose Society, or the so-called " Liberty 
and Property Defence League," as join an anarchist 
organisation.' 

When delivering this exposition of his views on anar- 
chism Morris walked about the floor, and spoke as in 
the heat of debate. It was a subject which, as has already 
been said, caused him no end of bother at that period, as 
there was already growing up in the League a strong 
anarchist faction a faction which eventually succeeded, 
in fact, in driving Morris from the editorship of the 
Commonweal, and splitting and destroying the Socialist 
League. 

The multitude of the topics dealt with by him in his 
replies was, I have said, remarkable. Some idea of 
their range and variety may be gathered from the following 
synopsis which I noted at the time : Did he believe in 
* Scientific ' as opposed to * Utopian ' Socialism ? Did he 
accept the Marxist or the Jevonian theory of value ? What 
was the real point of difference between him and Mr. 
Hyndman ? and were they still personal friends ? Did 
he regard the Fabians as being genuine Socialists ? Did 
he not think that the Socialist agitation would strengthen 
reaction, by detaching working men from the Liberal Party 
and frightening middle-class people into the Tory ranks ? 
Was it consistent for Socialists to ally themselves, as they 
virtually were doing, with the Irish Party, seeing the latter 
sought to establish Peasant Proprietorship, which would 
make Land Nationalisation more difficult ? Did he not 
think the Henry George Single Tax proposal an adequate 
solution of the economic problem ? Did he think Trade 
Unionism was a help towards Socialism ? Was it consistent 
for Socialists to be capitalists ? Why did he not consider 
St. Paul's Cathedral beautiful ? Was it true that he pre- 



66 WILLIAM MORRIS 

ferred Chaucer to Shakespeare, and did not admire Milton ? 
What did he think of Michael Angelo ? Was Swinburne 
likely to become a Socialist ? Was Burne-Jones a Socialist ? 
And (inevitably) how did Robert Burns rank as a poet ? 

This last question afforded Morris an opportunity of 
breaking from the fetters of the inquisition. * Don't you 
know,' he replied adroitly, * that I am constitutionally 
incapable of giving an opinion on your national bard ? 
So at least a Scotch friend of mine, and one of the best 
linguists and best informed literary men I know of, tells 
me. No man, he says, but a Scotchman can really under- 
stand and appreciate Burns, and I have the misfortune not 
to be a Scotchman, but a pock-pudding Englishman. He 
tells me that were I a Scotchman and able to appreciate 
the real greatness of Burns' genius, I should set him above 
Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, and Homer. But it is perhaps 
just as well, after all, don't you think, that I am not a 
Scotchman, for in that case I should not have been William 
Morris, and should not have had the pleasure of meeting 
you to-day, and inflicting a two hours' Socialist sermon on 
you.' 

As the day advanced the weather had not improved. 
A cold, drizzling sleet was falling, and the sky had become 
quite dusk. It was now after one o'clock, and most of those 
present were already late for their dinner or lunch. To 
our delight, Morris announced that he would willingly 
spend the afternoon with us, and we decided to adjourn 
the meeting, on the understanding that those who cared 
to do so, or were able to do so, should return at 2.30. 
Whereupon, our gathering broke up, and I took Morris 
off to lunch at a restaurant MacArthur's in the Trongate, 
the solitary dining establishment then open in Glasgow on 
Sundays. 

When we returned to the rooms, a regular snowstorm 
had begun, and only some seven or eight of the branch 
members had returned to join our afternoon's symposium. 
So dark was it that we had to light the gas. But although 



A RED-LETTER DAY 67 

all was dark and wild without, we were bright and merry 
within. 

Morris was evidently pleased to find himself in a smaller 
company, and especially, so I thought, on discovering that 
those present belonged to the working class. He seemed, 
curiously enough, as I then and on many other occasions 
noted, when in the company of strangers, to feel more at 
home and freer in his manner when among working men 
than when among men of his own class. He chatted in a 
chummy way with those around him, asking about their 
employment, and surprising us all by his acquaintance with 
the practical skill and usages of their crafts. He told 
amusing stories of his experiences in speaking at meetings 
in workmen's clubs in London ' sometimes to less than 
a dozen listeners after travelling right across London, and 
spending a whole evening on the job.' 

* But now,' he said, ' you asked me this morning why 
I became a Socialist ; suppose I in turn ask some of you 
chaps to tell me what brought you to Socialism ? I confess 
I cannot help wondering, when I find myself in a group of 
comrades, why they particularly have heard the word gladly 
while the mass of their fellows have turned from it with 
deaf ears.' 

Rather shyly one or two of us recounted, as best we 
could, the circumstances that had led us to leave the accus- 
tomed paths of politics. Our replies seemed almost as 
though we were each reciting the same story by rote. 
We had all, it appeared, from our boyhood days felt, without 
knowing why, the injustice of the existing system of leisure 
and riches on the one hand, and hard toil and poverty on 
the other. Our reading and in most instances Burns and 
Shelley, Carlyle and Ruskin were among the authors men- 
tioned had further aroused our minds on the subject. 
Then had come the Highland Crofters' revolt, and Henry 
George's ' Progress and Poverty ' and ' Land for the People ' 
agitation. Lord Beacons field's * Sybil,' Kingsley's ' Alton 
Locke,' Mrs Lynn Linton's ' Joshua Davidson,' and Victor 



68 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Hugo's ' Les Misdrables ' were also mentioned among the 
books that had proved stepping-stones out of the old ways 
of thought. 

Morris expressed surprise that none of us appeared to 
have read More's ' Utopia ' or any writings of the more 
definite pre-Marxian Socialist thinkers Robert Owen, St. 
Simon, Fourier, Louis Blanc, and the like. * As for Marx,' 
he said, 4 his writings were, of course, hardly known in 
this country outside the foreign revolutionary groups in 
London until Hyndman drew attention to them. Besides, 
until a couple of years or so ago, even his " Capital " was 
published only in German and French, and is of such an 
analytical character that it had practically no influence in 
creating Socialist thought in this country. I am not, 
however, so much surprised to find down here in Scotland 
that you working chaps apparently found each your own 
way to Socialism without even being in contact, as we in 
London were, with foreign revolutionary influences, as 
that you have all come the same road, so to speak, and that 
road has simply been the road of the reading and political 
experience common to the more thoughtful of the Scotch 
working class generally. Our comrade, the Rev. Dr. 
Glasse of Edinburgh, tells me practically the same thing. 
It looks as though one and all of you have been what is 
called " born " Socialists Socialists, that is to say, by nature 
or temperament to begin with and that, I suppose, is true 
of the majority of us who are as yet in the Socialist ranks, 
especially those who feel impelled to become apostles of the 
Cause.' 

4 The truth is,' Morris added, 4 that there has always 
been a making of Socialists, and a making of Society towards 
Socialism, going on since human history began. I have 
recently been looking a good deal into the literature of the 
Middle Ages and earlier periods of European history, and 
have been struck with the definiteness of Socialist feeling, 
and even Socialist customs, among the people and monkish 
sects of those days. I am writing some chapters for Com- 



A RED-LETTER DAY 69 

monweal on the Revolt of Ghent, and on John Ball and the 
Peasants' Revolt in England in Richard IPs day, in which 
I hope to make this better understood in the movement.' 

This theme seemed to call his thoughts back to olden 
times, and he told us many stories and sayings illustrative 
of the Socialist ideas and customs of bygone days. He 
repeated to us the verses ' Mine and Thine ' translated by 
him from the Flemish of the fourteenth century, which were 
afterwards published in the Commonweal and in his * Poems 
by the Way.' One of the stories which he told with great 
relish was of two monks in the early Church who were 
discussing the causes of enmity and war amongst mankind. 

* It is all owing to private property,' said one of the two 
monks. * But what is private property ? ' asked the other. 
His companion explained to him that private -property was 
any kind of thing which one person alleged belonged to 
himself, and which no one else had any right to, but there 
was always someone else who would be claiming possession of 
it, and thus the two claimants would fall fighting each other 
for it. * Dost thou now understand, brother ? ' asked the 
first monk. * Nay, brother, I do not,' replied the other. 

* Well, let me show thee. It is this way : Thou shalt 
say to me that the missal which is in thine hand is thine, 
and I shall say "Nay, brother, it is mine," and shall 
seek to take it from thee. Thereupon thou must refuse 
to let me take it : and forthwith thou and I shall strive 
against each other for it. Now, brother, let us begin. 
I now say to thee that the missal which is in thine hand 
is mine, and therefore thou must give it to me.' Where- 
upon the other monk, instead of refusing him the missal 
and withholding it, replied * Why, brother, if the missal 
be thine, surely thou shalt have it,' and so saying he yielded 
up the missal ungrudgingly. And thus the good monk's 
object-lesson all came to naught. 

Morris chuckled gleefully in telling this story. He 
then suggested that we should have some singing ; he wanted, 
he said, to hear some of our old Scottish songs. 



7 o WILLIAM MORRIS 

Luckily two of our comrades were good singers. James 
Thomson (a great-grandson of the poet Burns), who had a 
delightfully pure tenor voice, sang Burns' * I gaed a waefu' 
gate yestreen ' and * Mary Morrison.' McKechnie, a 
young West- Highlander with a capital baritone range and 
an endless repertory, sang one or two Gaelic songs and several 
Scottish humorous songs, including ' The barrin' o' the 
door,' ' The wee Cooper o' Fife,' and ' Phairshon swore 
a feud.' Morris was greatly taken with McKechnie's 
singing, and joined with us in the choruses. McKechnie 
then sang Greave's Irish song * Bally hooly,' heard by us 
for the first time. 

Sung as it was with great Celtic gusto, the song fairly 
captivated Morris, and again and again he hummed over 
the rollicking refrain * And they call it lemonade in 
Ballyhooly ! ' A month or two later, when I visited him 
in London, he chanted snatches of the song as I sat with 
him while he was designing some tapestry piece in the 
library. 

It was now evening. The outside world was dark and 
deep in snow, and our hopes of having a crowded meeting 
at the evening lecture had completely vanished. There 
was only just time for a cup of tea, which was served in 
the rooms, before going to the meeting. We then linked 
hands together and sang * Auld Lang Syne,' hailed the 
coming of the revolution and International Socialism, and 
marched forth on our tramp through the ankle-deep snow 
to the Waterloo Hall. 

At the hall we had to distribute among us the details 
of manning the pay-box, selling literature, and acting as 
stewards. To our pleasant surprise, notwithstanding the 
snowstorm, quite a good audience turned up for the lecture, 
at least 500 a couple of hundred more would have crowded 
the hall. The subject of the lecture was * Art and Industry 
in the Fourteenth Century,' which, needless to say, Morris 
wrought into a magnificent vindication of the aims and 
hopes of Socialism. He was in excellent trim on the plat- 



A RED-LETTER DAY 71 

form, notwithstanding his exhausting all-day-long session 
with us in the rooms, and he agreed without a grumble after 
the lecture to return with us to the rooms for a final rally 
with the comrades. 

And thus ended our memorable day with Morris 'all 
to ourselves ' in Glasgow. Walking home at midnight 
(for it was nigh midnight by the time one or two of us 
had seen Morris back to his hotel), a workman comrade then 
attending the university, who knew more of Morris' writings 
than any other of us then did, said to me with great earnest- 
ness, as he bid me good-night : * This is the greatest day of 
my life, and I can never hope to see the like again. I no 
longer doubt the possibility of an earthly Paradise. I feel 
as if Balder the Beautiful were become alive again and had 
been with us to-day. If one can speak of a God amongst 
men, we can so speak of William Morris as he has been with 
us this day in Glasgow.' 

NOTE. In Commonweal, June 5, 1888, Morris gave an account 
of his Scottish tour on this occasion. The tour included the 
following itinerary: Thursday (Mar. 21), Kilmarnock ; Friday, 
Edinburgh ; Saturday, West Calder ; Sunday, Glasgow ; Monday, 
Edinburgh again; Tuesday, Dundee; and Wednesday, Aberdeen. 
Here is his note on his Glasgow visit : 

' On Sunday I went to Glasgow, and here I had every reason 
to damn " the nature of things " as Person did when he hit his 
head against the door-post ; for it came on to snow at about one 
o'clock and snowed to the time of the meeting harder than I ever 
saw it snow, so that by 7.30 Glasgow streets were more than ankle- 
deep in half-frozen slush, and I made up my mind to an audience 
of fifty in a big hall ; however, it was not so bad as that, for it 
mustered over 500, who passed nem. con. a resolution in favour 
of Socialism. Owing to the weather, our comrades could not 
attempt the preliminary open-air meetings which they had in- 
tended to do ; so I passed the day with them in their rooms in 
John St. very much to my own pleasure, as without flattery, they 
were, as I have always found them, hearty good fellows and thorough 
Socialists.' 



CHAPTER IX 

A PROPAGANDA OUTING 

A FEW of us in Glasgow were accustomed on Saturday 
afternoons during the summer months to go to some neigh- 
bouring town or village, there to spread our * glad tidings.' 
Learning of this on the occasion of one of his visits to 
Scotland, when he lectured at Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, 
Hamilton, and Paisley, Morris at once volunteered to join 
our expedition in the afternoon. The place chosen for 
our outing was Coatbridge, one of the chief and most 
dismal iron-smelting, engineering, and coal-mining towns 
in Scotland. There were six of us in all, including Morris, 
and we took the train from the Buchanan Street Station 
about three o'clock. 

Morris was in high spirits, and exhibited to the full that 
rare combination of boyishness and masterfulness, jollity, 
seriousness, and explosiveness that made so attractive his 
character and companionship. We had an amusiag ex- 
perience at the outset of our journey. Among our group 
was a builder's carpenter, who, though enrolled as a member 
of the League, rarely turned up except when Morris, 
Kropotkin, Edward Carpenter, or some other notable 
person was on the scene. On this occasion, hearing that 
Morris was to be with us, he decided to form one of the 
company. Unfortunately, it being * Pay Saturday,' he 
had spent some of his earnings in a public-house, and was 
in an obviously disordered condition. As soon as we were 
planted in our seats he addressed Morris, sans ceremonie. 

72 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 73 

* I always like to come and hear you and the other big- 
wigs of the movement,' he said; 'but I can't be bothered 
listening to the small fry. But I don't look on you as a 
great orator you don't mind me telling you that ? As 
a speaker you are not in the same boat with John Burns. 
But you have a mighty sight more in your head than he has. I 
haven't read any of your poetry, but I expect it's uncommonly 
good. A man with a head like yours is bound to have great 
ideas in it. I'm a bit of a phrenologist, you see. Have 
you ever read Dr. George Combe's works ? ' 

Morris, who listened to the carpenter's familiarities 
with amusement, replied that he had not. 

* Then, sir, you've missed a treat. Combe was one of 
the greatest thinkers this country has produced. He beats 
your Bacon, Locke, and Berkeley altogether.' 

Having delivered this judgment, the carpenter relapsed 
into a dozing condition in his corner. A few minutes later, 
observing through the carriage window the glowing cupola 
of the steel works and blast-furnaces of the Parkhead Forge, 
Morris remarked that the district reminded him of Middles- 
brough, and said something about Sir Lothian Bell, the great 
ironmaster of that neighbourhood. At the mention of Sir 
Lothian Bell's name, our carpenter friend pricked up his ears. 

* Sir Lothian Bell Sir Lothian Bell,' he muttered, 
as if dimly recalling the name. Then after a pause, and 
looking hard at Morris, he asked, ' What do you know 
about ir Lothian Bell ? * 

4 Why,' replied Morris, * I just happen to know a little 
about him. You see I worked for him once.' 

The carpenter sat up astounded. * What ! * he ex- 
claimed. * You mean to say you have worked for Sir Lothian 
Bell ? I don't believe it.' 

* Well, believe it or not, my friend, it is a fact none the 
less,' said Morris, tickled at the man's absurdity. Scruti- 
nising Morris' face to discover if he was in some way fooling 
him, the carpenter repeated his declaration : * I don't 
believe it.' 



74 WILLIAM MORRIS 

4 But why should you not believe it ? ' asked Morris, 
ignoring the incivility of the denial. * You see, I am a 
workman, at any rate in my own way, though doubtless 
you do not reckon us artist sort of chaps as workmen. 
The truth is, I decorated Sir Lothian Bell's house for him. 
And I worked precious hard, too, I can tell you, at some 
parts of the job, as I think you would have allowed had you 
seen me at it, lathered from top to toe in plaster and paint.' 

* You really mean to say you worked in Sir Lothian 
Bell's house ! ' cried the carpenter now fairly excited. 

* I assure you I did, my friend,' replied Morris good- 
humouredly, but surprised at the carpenter's excitement. 

* Well, I never ! But do you really mean it ? you're 
not kidding me ? ' 

* Of course not why should I ? ' 

* Well, that beats everything ! ' shouted the carpenter. 
* Why,' he said, with almost solemn emphasis, ' / worked at 
Sir Lothian Bell's house myself ! ' 

* You did ? ' exclaimed Morris. * Why, it's quite a 
remarkable coincidence, isn't it ? You and I may there- 
fore call ourselves workmates as well as comrades. Let 
us shake hands on it.' 

The carpenter rather grudgingly extended his hand, 
and, looking with dull suspicion at Morris, kept muttering to 
himself : ' Well, I never well, I never ! But I only 
half believe it,' until he again dozed over in his corner. 
Later on our two miles' walk sobered him up, but conscious 
that he had been making rather a fool of himself he kept 
silent for the remainder of the day. 

Morris was now about to display himself in one 
of his explosive moods. Our train instead of stopping at 
Coatbridge bowled ahead to the next station, Whifflets, 
about two miles farther on. We had, it appeared, boarded 
the wrong train at Glasgow. The mistake was mine ; 
for noticing the name * Airdrie ' on the destination board, 
I had assumed that, as the train was a stopping train, it would 
stop at Coatbridge, as was customary with the Airdrie 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 75 

trains. I did not, at the moment, acquaint Morris with 
our misadventure, hoping that at Whifflets we might get 
a train back to Coatbridge with little or no delay. On our 
disembarking I spoke to the guard, complaining that no 
notice had been put up to warn passengers that the train 
would not stop at Coatbridge. Morris, who was waiting 
with our comrades a little farther up the platform, observing 
that I was having some little altercation with the guard, 
at once came along to enquire what was the matter. I 
told him, of course, what had happened, and that we should 
likely have to walk back two miles. 

* Oh, that's it ! ' exclaimed Morris, flaring up instantly 
into an amazing state of indignation. * I don't mind having 
to walk the two miles, but I do mind that these damned 
railway companies should treat the public in the shabby 
way they do. It's all because they won't pay wages to have 
sufficient men to look after the convenience of the public ' 
And thereupon he broke out into a terrific diatribe against 
railway companies in general, denouncing them as ' mean, 
lousy thieves and scoundrels,' saying all manner of dreadful 
things against them. He directed his abuse on the guard, 
who, standing with flag and whistle in hand, was too 
astounded at the wonderful apparition and infuriation of 
the blue-garmented sun-god or sea-god before him to say 
or do anything. I tried to persuade Morris to come away, 
but he would not. Meanwhile the passengers, hearing 
the disturbance on the platform, were looking out of the 
windows with mingled amusement and amaze. Thoroughly 
ashamed of my illustrious companion's misbehaviour, I 
left him in the midst of his expostulation, and, joining the 
rest of our company, we made over the footbridge to the 
other platform, where we ascertained that there would be 
no train back to Coatbridge until two hours later. 

The train having moved off, Morris crossed over the 
bridge and came leisurely sauntering towards us, humming 
contentedly some tune to himself. He was already a 
transformed being. Observing that we all looked rather 



76 WILLIAM MORRIS 

disconcerted, he asked if * anything else was wrong.' 
I replied no, but ventured to upbraid him gently for his 
violent behaviour, pointing out that the guard was not in 
any way to blame either for the misdoings of railway 
companies or for our present misadventure. 

* Of course not/ replied Morris, cheerfully. ' But 
we've got to blow up someone, don't you know. If we 
don't, nothing will be done to remedy matters. I hope, 
however, the guard didn't think I was bull-ragging him. 
Of course he didn't he looked quite a sensible chap. Now, 
shan't we have a refreshment, and get our shanks on the 
road ? ' He looked so imperturbably good-humoured that 
it was incredible that only a minute before he had been a 
blazing pillar of Olympian wrath. It was as that instant 
change from storm to sunshine which never ceases to 
astonish us in the moods of children. 

Proceeding on our way back to Coatbridge along the 
dry, coal-dusty road, with its dreary stretches of 'colliers' 
rows,' Morris' interest in everything he saw never flagged. 
He plied us with questions about the miners, their politics, 
their wages, and mode of spending their leisure. He noted 
(with many an imprecation) the effects of the ironworks 
on vegetation, and stopped occasionally to note the way- 
side flowers struggling for life here and there among the 
grimy hedgerows ; and every now and then quoted some 
old saying, or told some amusing story illustrative of the 
subject on hand. 

When we got to Coatbridge we had no little difficulty 
in deciding where we should hold our meeting. The police 
were exceedingly hostile to any sort of open-air meetings, 
religious or political, in the town, because of the frequent 
rows bordering on riots which they occasioned between 
the Orangemen and Roman Catholics, who formed a large 
part of the population. The street corners adjacent to 
public-houses, where the workmen were mostly congregated, 
were, I knew from past experience, forbidden us ; and the 
few vacant pieces of ground elsewhere discernible gave 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 77 

no promise of our getting an audience. Eventually we 
fixed on a sort of cinder-heap underneath the Gartsherrie 
blast furnaces, near, I think, to where the present fountain 
stands. We borrowed a chair from a neighbouring cottage, 
spread out our Commonweals and tracts as showily as 
we could, and ranged ourselves round so as to make our- 
selves look as big a crowd as possible. (How familiar all 
these proceedings still are at our Socialist open-air meetings !) 

We selected as our first speaker Pollack (a brass-finisher), 
on account of his having a powerful voice, hoping thereby 
to attract the passers-by and a few miners who were leaning 
against a neighbouring blank wall. But the stratagem 
did not succeed. The miners, finding they could hear what 
the speaker was saying without moving closer in, clung 
to their gable wall, giving no indication that they were in 
the least interested in what was being shouted in their 
ears ; while the passers-by, hearing the words * Socialism ' 
and ' Labour,' were satisfied that the subject was of no 
interest to them, and passed unheedingly on. Experience, 
I may say, has long since taught us that the better way to 
begin an open-air meeting is to put up a speaker who will 
address only those close to him and do so as quietly as possible. 
Curiosity as to what he may be speaking about almost 
invariably draws the beginnings of a crowd, if crowd there 
is at all to be had. 

Pollack's efforts proving fruitless, I then made a try ; 
and eventually, after about twenty minutes' haranguing, drew 
into the ring about a dozen listeners by dwelling upon some 
of the more notorious facts concerning the firm of Baird 
& Co., the owners of the neighbouring blast furnaces and 
the then wealthiest iron and coal masters in Scotland. 

I now introduced Morris, failing not, of course, to impress 
upon my scant audience the great favour which we were 
bestowing on them by bringing so illustrious a man to 
speak to them in Coatbridge. Morris, who had been 
fidgeting round the ring all the time, making audible assents 
to points in the speeches, and whose personality was evidently 



78 WILLIAM MORRIS 

the object of much curiosity among those gathered round, 
seemed glad that his turn to speak had now come, partly, 
I think, because (as always) he wanted to be doing some- 
thing, and partly because he felt a bit nervous about addressing 
meetings and was anxious ' to get the job done.' 

The chair (as so often happens in the case of chairs 
borrowed for such a purpose) was rather a rickety one, 
and Morris, having mounted it and feeling his foothold 
somewhat unsafe, at once dismounted from it with a shrug 
and a suppressed expletive, declaring he would plant himself 
on a firmer foundation. He put together a few broken 
bricks, by way of a foothold on the cinder heap, and began 
by addressing his hearers as ' Friends and fellow-workers.' 
How superb he looked, with his broad, blue-clad sturdy 
figure and his fine tousled head ! 

I had suggested to him that he might speak on the 
better days of labour in the olden time, as being a topic 
likely to engage the interest and sympathy of the crowd a 
suggestion which he willingly adopted. But he began, as 
he often did, on a personal note. 

' I have addressed you,' he said, ' as " friends and fellow- 
workers," and I do not do so merely in a complimentary 
way You are, I hope, my friends, though I know none 
of you personally. At any rate I really don't know that 
I am the enemy of any man or woman in the world, unless 
they be sheer scoundrels seeking positively to harm other 
people. I want everybody to be friends and to behave 
towards one another as real friends always do ; that is to 
say, trying to be happy with one another, and sharing as 
far as possible every means of making themselves happy. 
And that, as I shall explain later on if you will listen to me, 
is just the sum and substance of what Socialism means, 
which we have come here to preach to you this afternoon. 
And I call you " fellow workers " because, though I am, as 
you have just heard, a writer of poetry and such like, and 
what is called an artist or designer, I nevertheless do a 
great deal of work with my hands, hard work too, sometimes, 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 79 

not only for the pleasure of doing it, but actually, as you 
folk do here, as a means of livelihood. But I tell you 
frankly that I should not, even if I could, work at the kind 
of work and in the kind of way of working, that you do 
not even though offered a thousand pounds a week for so 
doing, instead of the paltry one or two pounds a week which 
you are asked to be content with, and which I regret to 
think you so frequently are content with. Sooner than 
work in an ironworks or coal mine as you folks do for ten 
or twelve hours a day, every week day, year out and year 
in, all my life, I should rebel rather, and take whatever 
consequences my rebellion might bring upon me. 

* But I shall tell you what kind of work I should like 
to do, and what conditions I should like to work under, 
and I should like you and all workers to have. And to 
show you that what I speak of is not a wholly impossible 
thing, as many people suppose Socialist conditions of work 
would be, I shall, if you will listen to me just a little while, 
tell of how working people used to live and work in this 
country in England, at any rate so far back as five hundred 
years ago, before there were any labour-saving inventions 
or any of the wonderful means of producing wealth easily 
and abundantly that we nowadays possess.' 

With this characteristic opening, Morris proceeded 
with his story (retold by him so often in his lectures) of 
how the workers worked and fared in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, the ' Golden Age of English labour,' as it has been 
called, concluding his address with a warmly affectionate 
account (I can hardly think of a better phrase) of what work 
and life might again be under Socialism. He spoke in his 
accustomed conversational way, his voice fairly strong, though 
inclining to grow husky towards the end. The evening 
had grown dark while he was speaking, and huge gleams 
of flame from the furnaces darted across the sky. The 
audience had now augmented to some sixty or eighty, chiefly 
miners, who listened with marked attention and interest. 
There were, however, a sprinkling of ' drunks 1 ' among the 



8o WILLIAM MORRIS 

listeners, who kept up a running fire of interjections, par- 
ticularly an Irishman, who at intervals, as if seized with a 
recurrent spasm, shouted unintelligible threatenings about 
Home Rule, King William of Orange, and Socialism. But 
the crowd shouldered him off. 

One elderly woman, who had stood by during the greater 
part of the address, listening with pathetic interest to every 
word, remarked as she was moving away : * He's a guid 
man onyway ; for he looks an honest man, and he speaks 
the guid truth. My ain father, who was a great Radical, 
used tc say muckle the same thing as this gentleman here ; 
but the working folk round aboot thocht he was cracked. 
The working folk noo-a-days hae awfu' little gumption in 
their heads, and I'm sorry to think a gentleman like this 
should waste his pains trying to put common sense into 
them/ 

Questions were invited, and a gentleman for such in 
style he evidently was asked permission, not to put a 
question, but to say a few words. Morris nodded his head 
in assent, and the gentleman, who we learnt later was the 
cashier, or some other high-placed official in the neigh- 
bouring ironworks, without moving from his place, spoke 
to this effect : 

* You people don't, I suppose, know who the gentleman 
is who has been addressing you. He is one of the leading 
men of literature and art of our day, and it is one of the 
greatest surprises of my life to find myself so unexpectedly 
listening to him address a meeting of this kind in Coat- 
bridge. I am not a Socialist, and don't at all share his 
Utopian hopes of improving society I wish I could, but 
all my experience denies them but I greatly admire his 
works, both his poetry and his art, and I wish to say that 
I am sorry I did not know of his coming, for I am sure he 
is entitled to a much better meeting and to much more 
comfortable conditions for speaking than he has here at 
this cinder-heap.' 

Morris in a reluctant sort of way thanked the gentleman 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 81 

for his friendly remarks, but assured him that he regarded 
it as an uncommon delight to come to Coatbridge, or else- 
where, with his comrades and share in their propaganda 
experiences. 

* And after all, my friend/ he added, with a twinkle 
in his eye, * I wish to remind you that this is just the sort 
of way that Diogenes and Christ and, for all we know, 
Homer, and your own Blind Harry the Minstrel used 
to get their audiences ; so I am not so far out of the 
high literary conventions after all ! And besides, what we 
Socialists are out for is not to win the support of the 
dilettante literary and art people (though we don't in the 
least degree exclude them from the hope of salvation), but 
of the working class, who suffer most by the present system 
and have the most to gain by upsetting it and putting Socialism 
in its stead.' 

There were a number of questions. One particularly 
it was put by a miner Morris answered with evident 
pleasure : * Does the lecturer propose to do away with 
coal-mining, and, if so, what would we do for fuel ? ' 

' Our friend's question is quite a proper one,' replied 
Morris ; * but I must warn him that on some of these 
industrial matters I am regarded as somewhat of a heretic, 
even amongst Socialists. For myself, I should be glad if we 
could do without coal, and indeed without burrowing like 
worms and moles in the earth altogether ; and I am not 
sure but we could do without it if we wished to live pleasant 
lives, and did not want to produce all manner of mere 
mechanism chiefly for multiplying our own servitude and 
misery, and spoiling half the beauty and art of the world 
to make merchants and manufacturers rich. In olden days 
the people did without coal, and were, I believe, rather more 
happy than we are to-day, and produced better art, poetry, 
and quite as good religion and philosophy as we do nowa- 
days. But without saying we can do without coal, I will 
say that we could do with less than half of what we use 
now, if we lived properly and produced only really useful, 



82 WILLIAM MORRIS 

good, and beautiful things. We could get plenty of timber 
for our domestic fires if we cultivated and cared for our 
forests as we might do ; and with the water and wind 
power we now allow to go to waste, so to say, and with 
or without electricity, we could perhaps obtain the bulk 
of the motive power which might be required for the 
essential mechanical industries. And, anyway, we should, 
I hope, be able to make the conditions of mining much more 
healthy and less disagreeable than they are to-day, and give 
the miners a much higher reward for their labour ; and also 
and this I insist is most important no one ought to be 
compelled to work more than a few hours at a time under- 
ground, and nobody ought to be compelled to work all 
their lives, or even constantly week by week, at mining, 
or indeed any other disagreeable job. Everybody ought to 
have a variety of occupation, so as to give him a chance 
of developing his various powers, and of making his work 
a pleasure rather than a dreary burden. I have tried to 
answer our friend's question fairly, but I can hardly hope 
that, not being, maybe, a bit of a dreamer like myself, he 
will be satisfied with it.' 

* You have answered my question quite straight,' said 
the miner, * and I believe there is much truth in what you 
say.' 

With the advance of the evening the ground had now 
become thronged with people, and a cheap-jack and a 
Salvationist band had made their respective appearance in 
close proximity to our meeting. A lively competition for 
the favour of the crowd therefore took place between the 
oratory of the poet of the ' Earthly Paradise,' the drumming 
of the Salvationists, and the blatant vociferations of the 
cheap-jack, who, quite unconscious of the grim mockery 
of his performance, was displaying rolls of loud-coloured 
linoleum and wall-paper which he described as * the newest 
and best designs on the market, fit to make the homes of 
the working class vie with the palaces of princes.' Morris 
did not appear to notice the nature of the fellow's wares, 



A PROPAGANDA OUTING 83 

but the challenge of the situation roused his combative 
instincts, and he was loth to stand down. * We've got to 
get the biggest crowd, let's have another pitch into them,' 
he said. But his voice was wearing out, so Stephen Downie 
mounted the chair and held on for another quarter of an hour. 

We then ended our meeting with a final appeal to the 
audience to buy Commonweal and our Socialist pamphlets. 
We returned by train to Glasgow full of cheer in our 
adventure, except when Morris, watching the flare of 
furnaces and steel retorts through the carriage window 
* putting out moon and stars,' as he said fell into moments 
of saturnine gloom. On arriving in Glasgow we were 
hungry and thirsty, and Morris wished to stand us * drinks 
round and something to eat ' at the station restaurant, but 
two of our members being teetotallers, he, with a whim- 
sical ' umph,' agreed we should go to a temperance place 
instead, and there we regaled ourselves on lemonade and 
sandwiches. 

We accompanied Morris to his hotel door, and as he 
shook hands with us, our carpenter comrade, who had kept 
himself severely in the background since his misdemeanour 
in the afternoon, expressed to him the hope that he had not 
offended him by his behaviour in the train. * I am much 
ashamed of myself, and hope you'll forgive me,' he said. 

* I'm not the least offended, my friend,' Morris assured 
him cheerily. * Why should I be ? You didn't mean to 
offend me, and I admit it did look as if I was trying to pull 
your leg a bit. Besides you have seen how I can misbehave 
myself, and I ought to ask you all to forgive me. So good- 
night and good luck to you all : ' I have enjoyed the outing 
hugely.' 



CHAPTER X 

EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS AND AFTER 

THE Art Congress held in Edinburgh in 1889 proved a 
somewhat memorable occasion for the Socialist movement 
in Scotland. The Art Congress was founded in London 
by a number of artists and craftsmen, with the object of 
* advancing the interests of Art and Industry ' by widening 
public knowledge of the work of present-day artists and 
designers. The first general gathering of the Congress 
was held in Liverpool the year previous to the Edinburgh 
meeting, and was attended by the President of the Royal 
Academy and a host of prominent artists and craftsmen, 
including Morris and Walter Crane, who read papers at 
the sectional meetings. Its proceedings were widely noticed 
in the press, the members were feasted at public banquets 
and entertained in the houses of wealthy citizens, and the 
gathering was reckoned a great success. 

The Edinburgh meeting promised to be no less success- 
ful. With a view to enhancing the lustre of the gathering 
the promoters had secured the patronage of the Marquis of 
Bute as president for the occasion. Great attention was 
bestowed on the assembly by the Scottish press, and the 
fashionable portion of the Edinburgh citizens vied with one 
another in showing hospitality to the visitors. 

But a blight fell upon the repute of the meeting almost 
at the outset, in quite an unexpected and absurdly incon- 
sequent way. Again, as at the Liverpool gathering, Morris 
and Crane, together with Cobden-Sanderson and Emery 

84 



EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS 85 

Walker, who, Socialists as they were, stood in the forefront 
of their respective branches of craftsmanship, were invited 
to give addresses at the sectional meetings. Much to their 
own surprise and to the no small annoyance of the pro- 
moters of the Congress, this little group of intransigents, 
because of the Socialist strain in their discourses, attained 
great prominence in connection with the proceedings 
a circumstance that caused considerable commotion in the 
public mind. Their presence at the Congress was spoken 
of by a section of the press as a cleverly devised Socialist 
conspiracy to capture the Congress, while the promoters 
were rebuked for giving them a place on the official 
programme. 

One newspaper accused Morris and his friends of 
having turned the Congress into a Socialist demonstration, 
while another lamented the regrettable intrusion of revolu- 
tionary Socialist politics into the peaceful republic of the 
Arts. The headline * Art and Socialism ' flourished in 
the columns of all the newspapers during the week, and the 
subject was alluded to in many pulpits on the following 
Sunday. 

Needless to say, we rank-and-file Socialists in Scotland 
were in high feather over the affair. We could not have 
wished for a more desirable advertisement of our Socialist 
principles. Hitherto Socialism had been associated in the 
press mainly with troublesome free-speech and unemployed 
disturbances, and a few nugatory election candidatures in 
London. We had now the gratification of seeing Socialism 
flamed in the public eye as the tutelary divinity of the 
Muses, the true spiritual progenitor of genius and all the 
wondrous achievements of art and literature which adorn 
the ascent of humanity. 

This was for us a great stroke of fortune. Nor was 
the exultation dictated by any want of consideration for 
the interest of art. Whether or not, as the Edinburgh 
Evening News alleged, * the Socialists had spoiled the 
Congress,' the incident had at any rate given a big lift to 



86 WILLIAM MORRIS 

the Socialist movement, and we all of us, Morris and his 
colleagues included, felt that the advance of the Socialist 
cause was of incomparably greater importance to the 
advance of art than was the success of an annual junketing 
of artists and fashionable dilettanti. Was it not self- 
evident that an Art Congress, especially one whose professed 
object was to promote * the interests of Art and Industry,' 
which could be spoiled by the propaganda zeal of one or 
two of the foremost art craftsmen of the day, was already 
foredoomed to futility ? Anyway, whether wittingly or 
unwittingly 'spoiled by the Socialists,' the Edinburgh 
meeting proved to be the last assembly of the short-lived 
Art Congress Association. 

Morris commented briefly on the Congress in the next 
issue of the Commonweal : 

* The Art Congress,' he wrote, * was on the whole a 
dull affair, and would have been very dull indeed, but that 
to a Socialist its humours showed some signs of the times. 
It goes without saying that, though there were people present 
who were intent on playing the part of Art-philanthropists, 
all the paper readers, except the declared Socialists, showed 
an absurd ignorance of the very elements of economics ; 
and also, of course, that the general feeling was an ignoring 
of the existence of the working class except as instruments 
to be played on. . . . Socialist artists and craftsmen (since 
there were none but Socialists capable of taking on the job) 
were set to lecture audiences of Edinburgh working men 
on the due methods of work for producing popular art, 
though both lecturers and workmen audiences knew but too 
well that such art was impossible for wage-slaves to make 
or enjoy.' 

* However,' continued Morris, ' the said lecturers did 
not hide this fact under a bushel ; and since, as a reactionary 
Edinburgh evening paper angrily declared, the Socialists 
had ruined the Congress, it is probable that their plain 
speaking had some effect. It must also be said that the 






EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS 87 

working-men audiences received any allusions to Socialism, 
or any teaching founded on it, with more than assent, with 
enthusiasm rather. The definitely Socialist meetings, held 
under the auspices of our Edinburgh friends, were very 
successful, and the local Socialists are well satisfied with the 
result of the week.' 

The Rev. Dr. John Glasse bore similar testimony in 
the pages of the Commonweal : 

' The presidential address (to the Crafts section) by our 
comrade Morris drew the largest gathering of the week. 
Nothing could have been better than the effect produced, 
for the audience not merely admired its ability, but were 
moved by its reasoning. The most successful of all, however, 
were perhaps the lectures given to working men. They 
were led off by Morris and Crane, and finished by Walker 
and Sanderson. We were not only much gratified by the 
reception given to our comrades, but proud to think that 
they had been found most competent to address the workers 
on matters relative to their handicrafts.' 

Such were the circumstances and nature of the alleged 
Socialist * Conspiracy ' that * ruined the Art Congress,' 
and incidentally invested the Socialist agitation in Scotland 
with a modest glamour of intellectual prestige. It is now 
quite forgotten, I suppose, in the Socialist movement itself, 
but at the time it was a great windfall to us, * the feeble 
band and few,' who were striving by means of our hoarse 
shoutings at forlorn street corners, and our lecturings in 
shabby out-of the-way halls, to rouse our million-fold fellow 
citizens from centuries of ignorance and prejudice, and 
persuade them that in our * fantastic and impossible schemes ' 
lay the only hope and means of the social redemption of 
mankind. 

Thenceforth our propaganda was treated with greater 
respect by the public and the press. Our lecturers were 
invited to speak at public conferences and in the lecture- 



88 WILLIAM MORRIS 

courses of polite religious and literary societies. And not 
the least gain was the part the affair played in bringing 
about the rapprochement between the Socialist and the 
younger art movements. It was from the Edinburgh 
Art Congress incident that we must date the beginning of 
that remarkable bent towards Socialism among the students 
of the Glasgow and other art schools which soon afterwards 
became one of the most significant facts in the culture of the 
period. Within half a dozen years fully more than a half of 
the art students in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and later in 
Manchester, Birmingham, and other centres, were either 
avowed Socialists or were largely influenced by Socialist 
ideas. 

I must briefly relate the interesting experience we had 
in Glasgow with our Art Congress comrades during their 
visit. 

On the Sunday following the Congress, the four 
* culprits/ as Morris called them, were, as it happened, 
booked to address a meeting in Glasgow under the 
auspices of the Glasgow branch of the Socialist League. 
Crane was to give his lecture on * The Educational Value 
of Art,' with blackboard illustrations, Morris was to 
preside, and Cobden-Sanderson and Walker were to give 
short addresses. This was a big catch for us, and it grieved 
us sorely that we could not obtain the City Hall for the 
meeting, and had to be content instead with the Waterloo 
Hall, which held at most only some 800. As it turned 
out, however, this hall proved large enough for the meeting 
the rainy evening and the charge for admission, is. 
and 6^/., yielding us an audience that just comfortably 
filled the hall. 

Our visitors arrived from Edinburgh on the Saturday 
evening, and about a dozen of us improvised a little gathering 
with them in the hotel. They were all in good spirits over 
the success of the Edinburgh gatherings, and Morris hit 
off amusingly the crudities of some of the ' old Duffers,' 
as he called them, who had been pompously speaking of art 



EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS 89 

as a kind of mumbo-jumbo fetishism for the working class. 
' Just the sort of tommy rot that curates talk about religion 
at mothers' meetings, and Oxford professors say about 
education at Cutlers' Feasts.' He instanced, I think, 
Sir William Richmond's address in one of the sections, 
and a paper sent in by G. F. Watts, as among the few 
Congress utterances that showed any grasp at all of the real 
bearing of art on the lives and work of the people. 

The conversation then, to our younger folks' delight, 
turned to literature and art topics, Mavor, Craibe Angus, 
and R. A. M. Stevenson keeping up the Scottish end of it. 
Morris, I remember, mentioned the forthcoming publication 
of his ' Roots of the Mountains,' which was to be printed 
and bound in a new style, and this led to a talk about typo- 
graphy, mainly between Morris and Emery Walker. In 
the course of this talk Morris told us how he had first 
broached the idea in 1885 of setting up as a printer himself, 
an idea which eventuated in his founding of the famous 
Kelmscott Press. But the subject was highly technical, 
and I doubt if any of us ordinary chaps realised the important 
project that was then well on the way to success. 

Thinking that the visit of our distinguished comrades 
would afford a good opportunity of bringing into touch 
with the movement a number of outsiders who might be 
in sympathy with Socialist ideas though not inclined to 
join any political Socialist body, we had arranged to hold a 
sort of reception gathering and conference on the Sunday 
afternoon. It would, at any rate, we thought, be an inter- 
esting way of gauging to what extent interest in Socialism 
was spreading among the more intelligent of our fellow- 
citizens. 

Our invitation list included several of the university 
professors, a number of architects, artists, and literary 
people, a number of town councillors and public men 
associated with social reform schemes, and a number of 
leading trade unionists, co-operators, land restorers, Ruskin 
Society members, and the like. We calculated that the 



90 WILLIAM MORRIS 

presence of our four visitors would attract a fairly large 
gathering, and had booked one of the Waterloo rooms, 
capable of seating 200 to 300, for the occasion. But the 
attendance, partly, no doubt, because of the blustering wet 
weather, proved disappointing, only some fifty or sixty people 
making an appearance. None of the professors came, 
and only one, Edward Caird, I think, sent a sympathetic 
apology. A few artists, D. Y. Cameron, John Guthrie, 
John Lavery, R. A. M. Stevenson, and Francis Newbery 
among them, if I remember rightly, formed almost the only 
representation of the ' brain workers,' apart from the little 
group of university scholars in our own branch. Of the 
rest, the Single Taxers and trades council members made 
the best show, and the co-operators the poorest. The 
meeting, nevertheless, proved quite an instructive and enjoy- 
able gathering. Morris, Crane, and Cobden-Sanderson gave 
short addresses and answered a wide variety of questions ; 
and some outspoken comments on Socialists and their 
methods of agitation were made from the benches. 

Several Trade Union speakers complained that Socialists 
adopted a too preceptorial attitude towards Trade Unionism, 
and failed to appreciate the immediate needs and demands of 
the working class. This objection Cobden-Sanderson fully 
endorsed, but pointed out that the lead of Socialist thought 
came almost wholly from middle-class thinkers, owing to 
the general indifference or hostility of working-class leaders 
towards Socialism. It was only by an effort of the imagin- 
ation that men like his colleagues and himself could visualise 
the situation and outlook of working men. We would 
not have a real Socialist movement in this country until 
the working class abandoned Liberal and Tory politics and 
became a great Labour and Socialist Party, moulding Socialist 
ideals and principles into practical shape for themselves. 

A good deal of criticism was levelled against the anti- 
Parliamentary policy of the Socialist League, and the general 
feeling of the meeting, apart from our own members, was 
that the League's attitude in this respect greatly weakened 



EDINBURGH ART CONGRESS 91 

its Socialist appeal to the working class. A veteran Glasgow 
Green debater, * Old John Torley,' as fiery in speech as in 
the colour of his hair, but withal brimful of good-humour, 
made a breezy onslaught on those * High Art Socialists who 
designed silk curtains and velvet cushions, and got out hand- 
printed books bound in Russian leather, which only the idle 
spongers on the toil of the workers could afford to buy.* 

In reply to this and several other questions relating to 
art, Morris made a personal statement in which he re- 
affirmed in substance what on many previous and after 
occasions he found it necessary to say respecting his own 
position. He acknowledged that under present-day con- 
ditions of wealth and labour the pursuit of art and literature 
was to men like himself a mere sort of truant boy's pastime 
a fiddling while Rome was burning. * For myself,' he 
said, * I often feel conscience-stricken about it, and if I knew 
any corner of the world where there was social equality 
I should pack up and go there at once. But I am not 
attracted, as some good men both in present and bygone 
times have been, with the idea of going out into the wilder- 
ness, either as an anchorite or as one of a group of Socialist 
Fifth Monarchy men. I don't want to get out from among 
my fellow men, for with all their faults which are not 
theirs only but our own I like them and want to live and 
work among them. My Utopia must be pitched square in 
the midst of them or nowhere. But, as I say, I often feel 
conscience-stricken about enjoying myself, and enjoy myself 
much I confess I do in my art and literary work, while 
the mass of my fellows are doomed to such a sordid and 
miserable life of servitude around me. Were it not for 
my work and the hope of Socialism, I believe life would 
be positively unendurable to me as in truth it should be 
to every man possessed of any aesthetic or moral feeling 
at all.' 

At the evening meeting Morris made only a short speech 
as chairman, alluding good-humouredly to the criticisms of 
the press on his own and his colleagues' addresses at the Art 



92 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Congress. He had, he said, had the privilege of addressing 
Glasgow audiences quite a number of times during the past 
five years, and on this occasion he wanted them to hear 
his comrades Walter Crane and Cobden-Sanderson. 

Crane was hardly what is called a good lecturer. He 
had little flow of language, no vigour of statement, and 
spoke in rather a jerky fashion. But there was a certain 
archness and occasionally an epigrammatical flavour in his 
remarks which, together with much gracefulness of gesture, 
made it pleasant to listen to him. In appearance he was 
almost ideally the artist. His finely shaped head, beautiful 
face with clear, kindly eyes and handsome moustache and 
short, pointed beard, together with his finely proportioned 
and mobile figure, gave him the look of a troubadour who 
had stepped out of some medieval page. After a few 
introductory remarks he asked for the blackboard, which 
was thereupon shifted from the side of the platform to the 
front, Morris, Cobden-Sanderson, and Walker meanwhile 
leaving their seats on the platform in order to witness his 
sketching from the body of the hall. 

Crane's facility as a draughtsman was a matter of public 
repute. Most artists of ability are able to draw off-hand 
familiar objects with ease and considerable precision ; but 
Crane's facility was exceptional. The audience were de- 
lighted to see him take his chalk, and, beginning at the tail, 
with a few rapid sweeps of his arm, and without once breaking 
his stroke, evolve the outline of a cow. A few more strokes 
and a maid with a milkpail and a farmstead in the distance 
were brought in. Then came, interspersed with comments, 
the * Crag Baron,' the ' Bag Baron ' (with a forest of smoking 
chimney stalks in the background), and the Capitalist elephant 
on the tortoise of Labour. There were a number of in- 
genious ' ideographs ' symbolising the evolution of plant 
and animal life. A series of sketches giving his idea of 
how much more attractive dress, houses, and cities might 
be made completed his illustrations He was heartily 
cheered at the conclusion of his lecture. 



93 

Cobden-Sanderson, like Crane, was a new personality 
to our Glasgow audiences, but his name was fairly well 
known from press notices of his beautiful work in book- 
binding shown at Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, and from 
the circumstance that he had, on becoming a Socialist, 
given up his career at the parliamentary bar in order to 
practise in some degree his principles by engaging in work 
that might be honest, useful, and beautiful. The press, 
too, had but recently recorded his marriage with Annie 
Cobden, one of the daughters of Richard Cobden, the 
famous Free Trade advocate, herself well known as a 
suffragist agitator, noting also the fact that he adopted his 
wife's name with his own as a joint surname. He was an 
accomplished platform speaker, clear and crisp in phrase, 
keenly argumentative, and with fine animation in his delivery. 
He told how he had come to realise the wrongfulness of 
the present class system of society its falsehood in com- 
merce, in law, in politics, and in personal morality, and 
how he could no longer with self-respect participate in its 
deceptions, and had decided to devote himself to some 
kind of productive work that could be not only honest 
and useful but beautiful. The speech made a deep impres- 
sion on the meeting. 

Though announced as one of the speakers, Emery 
Walker did not address the meeting. Morris * let him off ' 
at his own request, as he shrank much from public speaking. 
Even on his own special subject of the printers' craft he 
only lectured on rare occasions. But he was well known 
in Socialist circles as the Secretary of the Hammersmith 
branch of the League, and as one of the unofficial art 
group of London Socialists. Morris esteemed him as one 
of his closest friends, and consulted him on matters of 
business and art, a thing he rarely did with others. He was 
personally known among us in Glasgow from visits he had 
paid us in our branch rooms when on business in Scotland 

We adjourned from the hall to our branch meeting 
rooms, where we had an hour's chat, chiefly about the internal 



94 WILLIAM MORRIS 

affairs of the League. To us of the Glasgow branch the 
day had been a festival. We were full of joy in the com- 
panionship we had had with our London comrades, whose 
earnest zeal for Socialism and whose unaffected camaraderie 
and willingness to help and encourage us deeply impressed 
us all. We felt that there was something new and won- 
derful in the fellowship of the Socialist cause, and that we 
were veritably on the threshold of a new era of history. 
Was not the dawn already aglow on our brows and in our 
hearts ? 



CHAPTER XI 

AS GUEST AND COMPANION 

IT was a joyous, though at times a somewhat exciting, 
experience, to accompany Morris on a sight-seeing expedition, 
especially when amidst unfamiliar surroundings. One had 
a sense of pleasant unrest, a feeling of expectancy that 
some interesting adventure was on hand, that something 
unwonted would occur. One forgot oneself listening to 
his talk and observing his movements, and one's attention 
was kept constantly on the alert. 

But always his companionship was delightful, and the 
hours spent with him left an unfading fragrance in the 
mind. 

I am now about to tell of a Sunday I had with him in 
Glasgow when, as he announced to me, he was going to 
have ' a day off,' except for his evening lecture and a couple 
of hours at his ' Odyssey,' and that I might do with him as 
I pleased. During his earlier visits he was usually the 
guest of some friend, such as Professor John Nichol, Dr. 
Dyer (then prominent in the Scottish Co-operative Move- 
ment), or R. F. Muirhead, M.A., one of the members of 
our League. But he preferred to stay at an hotel, where 
he could be more at liberty to give his spare time to writing 
and where he could more freely invite workmen comrades 
to have a chat with him. On this occasion he had arranged 
to put up at the Central Station Hotel, but had agreed to 
be my guest at my mother's house during the day. 

I met him on his arrival by the night mail train from 
95 



96 WILLIAM MORRIS 

London about seven o'clock in the morning, and after 
leaving his bag at the hotel and slinging his familiar ' haver- 
sack ' over his arm, we set forth together for breakfast at 
my mother's house on the south side of the river. Although 
the morning was bright and warm in the spring sunshine, 
hardly a soul was visible in the streets ; and as we walked 
round by George Square in order that Morris might 
despatch a telegram at the Central Post Office, we seemed to 
be almost the only inhabitants of the city. Morris had on 
former visits been shown the leading thoroughfares and 
sights of Glasgow, including the Square which is reckoned 
the architectural cynosure of the city. His opinion of my 
native town, which Robert Buchanan with a fine stretch 
of imagination described in his Exhibition Ode as * the 
dark, sea-born city with its throne on a surge-vexed shore/ 
was not a complimentary one. He had only seen Glasgow 
under various aspects of wet and dismal weather. This 
morning, however, the Square, bathed as it was in spring 
sunshine, with its flower-beds in freshest bloom, and clear 
of the hubbub of the trams and other week-day traffic, 
had an air of modest capitoline splendour that seemed to 
gainsay bravely the sweeping dispraise of its detractors. 

Morris glanced at the Palladian edifice of the City 
Chambers, still looking assertively new, that fronted the 
Square. The vehemence and rudeness of his expression 
on first seeing this building a couple of years before had 
astonished those who were with him, and he again turned 
his face from it with an unquotable epithet of contempt. 
Looking round the Square at the Post Office, the Merchants' 
House, and the far-stretching range of elaborate facades of 
banks and other commercial offices in St. Vincent Place, 
his face hardened. * Renaissance and the devil be damned ! ' 
was his comment; and addressing me he added ' Allow me, 
my friend, to remark, being as this is the Sabbath day, that 
your respected city, like most of its commercial kind, is, 
architecturally speaking, woefully bad, and I fear impeni- 
tently so. Your young " Scots wha hae " of the Glasgow 



AS GUEST AND COMPANION 97 

School don't appear to have laid their reforming hand on 
your city architecture. Ruskin thirty years ago, in a lecture 
on architecture, called Glasgow the ** Devil's Drawing 
Room." He would hardly feel obliged to amend his 
judgment of it to-day, if this is the best that Glasgow can 
show.' 

I told him, however, that a little farther westward, 
where many new insurance, shipping, and other commercial 
premises were now being built, there were signs of better 
things. In several instances bold innovations based on the 
old Celtic style had been introduced by the younger architects. 

* I'm glad to hear it,' he said, ' though I doubt me much 
if you don't mind my saying so about the applicability 
of your old Celtic style to the amenities of joint-stock 
money-grabbi ng. ' 

The statutes dotted round the Square amused him. 
* It seems to me,' he said, * that the idea has been to give 
the place the aspect of a cemetery you Scottish folk being, 
as one of your own writers has said, much addicted to grave- 
yard reflections. Is it not your own Laird of Logan who 
avers that Scotchmen are never really happy save when they 
are at funerals ? ' 1 

Looking up at the Scott monument, a tall column 
surmounted with an effigy of the great novelist, in the middle 
of the Square, he observed, * But at any rate your Walter 
Scott is a worthier wight to thrust up in the Almighty's 
face than our London Trafalgar Bay hero.' Of Robert 
Burns' statue he remarked, * They've tried, don't you think, 
to make your ploughman poet look something of a fine 
gentleman, with his pigtail, his ribboned breeches, and silver- 
buckled shoes ? But I suppose a certain degree of class- 
respectability, in dress at least, is obligatory for admission 
into your post-mortem court of celebrities.' After going 

1 I had sent him a copy of the Laird of Logan, an old book of 
Scottish anecdotes. But the saying is not there. It is a familiar 
tag among Scotsmen when affecting self-depreciation among 
Englishmen. 



98 WILLIAM MORRIS 

round the Square, he remarked, * You have statues to Scott, 
Burns, and Campbell, but none to Dunbar or David Lindsay. 
Nor is there, Craibe Angus tells me, any memorial in 
Glasgow to William Motherwell, though he was a Glasgow 
man, and one of your best poets, besides being among the 
first Britishers to perceive the greatness of old Scandinavian 
literature. You have the illustrious heroes Victoria and 
Albert, but not Wallace or Bruce. Curious, isn't it ? ' 

As we were crossing the river he stood for a moment 
looking at the huge unsightly girder-bridge of the railway 
spanning the river and completely blocking from view the 
western course of the water-way. I thought he was about 
to explode against the monstrous eyesore, but he turned 
away from it with a weary gesture. * I wonder,' he said, 
speaking rather to himself than to me, * if the time will 
ever come and God ! surely it must come when to do 
a thing like that will be reckoned as devilish as poisoning 
wells or burning down churches and museums of Art. 
We speak of ourselves as a civilised people and yet are capable 
of ghoulish vandalism like that.' 

Our house in Crown Street was one of the tenement 
flats universal in Glasgow, except in the West End and 
suburban neighbourhoods. Morris had already some notion 
of the Glasgow tenement system, but was curious about 
some of the arrangements of the dwellings that were unfa- 
miliar to his English eyes. Ours, though one of the more 
spacious and improved dwellings of its class, was, like all 
other tenement houses in Glasgow, provided with nothing 
in the shape of a garden except the customary * back-court ' 
or * green ' used for drying clothes, and common to all the 
tenants. Speaking of the absence of garden plots anywhere 
in Glasgow, he said he did not know whether to be more 
surprised that the Glasgow people were not all revolutionists, 
or that any of them had enough imagination left in them to 
be Socialists at all. 

* I wonder,' he mused, * what sort of chap I should have 
been, Glasier, had I been brought up a fellow townsman of 



AS GUEST AND COMPANION 99 

yours ? Bannockburn does not appear to have done much 
for your city's elbow room, whatever it may have done for 
the " Liberty's in every blow! " that you sing about.' 

At breakfast he enquired of my mother about the 
arrangements among the tenants for the using of the * green/ 
and seemed pleased to hear that usually little or no mis- 
understanding arose over the allocation of space and respective 
washing days. ' I have always found it so,' he said, * respect- 
ing the use of common property when there is reasonable 
equality of need and where self-interest is disciplined by 
established custom. I don't suppose there ever was much 
bother in the olden days among the village folk respecting 
the use of common land or any of the old parish possessions, 
so long as the people were mostly neighbours and pretty 
nearly on the same social level ; and even nowadays in 
the English villages the people get on in a much more 
friendly way over their public property rights than over their 
private property concerns.' 

My mother was becoming accustomed to entertaining 
Socialist agitators whom her son invited home with him, 
often without forewarning her of his intention ; but like 
so many Scottish, and especially Highland hostesses, she was 
somewhat shy of new guests, particularly when they were 
persons of public fame or visitors from other countries. 
Though she did not at that period know much about 
Socialism, except that, like Irish Land Leaguism and 
Atheism, it was regarded as a highly disreputable and 
dangerous doctrine, she respected and welcomed whom- 
soever her son brought to her door. 

Such diverse personalities ^as Andreas Scheu, Leo 
Melliet, Lawrence Gronlund, the Rev. Dr. Glasse, 
Prince Kropotkin, Stepniak, Henry George, and Edward 
Carpenter had thus sat at her board, and each had presented 
a fresh problem of hospitality to her, so concerned was she 
that they should be * welcome ' in every sense of the word. 
But with Morris, as with the others, she was soon wholly 
at ease. His unaffected courtesy and simplicity of manners 



ioo WILLIAM MORRIS 

won her confidence at once, and it was a joy to me to see 
him and my mother so completely at home with each other. 
She had wondered what to make ready for breakfast, but I 
had assured her that he was not * faddy ' about his food, 
and that she need have no misgivings about his enjoying 
the customary fare of her table. So she had made him a fine 
ashetful of our own favourite Sunday-morning dish, to wit, 
ham, eggs, sausage, and haddock, with home-baked scones 
and oat-cake. He enjoyed the menu greatly, and said so 
(I should hardly have forgiven him if he hadn't !), and, his 
appetite being keen after the long train journey and the 
morning walk, he ate quite heartily, which rejoiced her heart. 
He chatted freely, but not obtrusively, keeping his conversa- 
tion upon topics likely to be of common interest round the 
table. Learning that my mother knew Gaelic, he asked 
her about the West Highland pronunciation of certain words 
that had a common Gaelic and Latin root, and he told my 
sisters about some of the curious domestic customs in Iceland 
which he had observed during his visit to that country a 
dozen or so years previously. 

After breakfast I sat with him in the front room, he 
meanwhile drawing from his * haversack ' an Odyssey and 
a Greek lexicon preparatory to his daily task of translation. 
He had much delight in the Odyssey, because it afforded 
so many glimpses into the everyday life and feeling of the 
Ionic people ; many of the incidents and customs in the 
poem were remarkably akin to those described in the Norse 
Sagas. 

I left him in the room by himself at his Odyssey, while 
I went over to Glasgow Green to take part in our usual 
Sunday morning open-air meeting of the League. He 
offered to accompany me, but I knew he was pressed to 
get on with his Odyssey translation, and assured him that 
our comrades would feel that he had done his duty amply 
by them if, in addition to giving his evening lecture, he 
turned up at our afternoon meeting and said a few words. 

On my return I found him chatting with James Mayor 






AS GUEST AND COMPANION 101 

and Archibald MacLaren, assistant professor of Greek in 
the Glasgow University and, I think, R. F. Muirhead, 
M.A., all three members of our branch, whom I had invited 
to join us at midday dinner. In the conversation at table 
Morris asked about the attitude of the Glasgow professors 
towards Socialism. He was told that only Edward Caird, 
of the Moral Philosophy chair, showed any sympathy with 
Socialist ideas or indeed with democratic politics of any kind. 
Professor John Nichol of the Literature chair, who had 
formerly been a strong Radical and friend of Mazzini, was 
now an embittered Unionist, while Lord Kelvin and the 
Science and Medical men were almost without exception 
Tory and reactionary. 

* It is a rum state of affairs, don't you think ? ' said 
Morris. * But it's the same all round. The intellectuals 
are on the wrong side on almost every question that affects 
the right understanding of life. They are the priesthood 
of the mumbo-jumboism of modern civilisation Edward 
Carpenter is quite right about that. Were I had up for 
any sort of crime touching property or political freedom, 
I should prefer to take my chance with a jury of dukes and 
sporting squires, rather than one of professors and college 
dons.' 

Reference was made to the fact that the Scottish Univer- 
sities had, without exception, at recent parliamentary and 
Lord Rectorship elections, elected Unionist politicians who 
had no distinction whatever in science or literature 

* That just shows you,' said Morris, 'that your intel- 
lectuals, dull dogs as they mostly are, have some scent of 
what's in the wind, and that when it comes to the pinch they 
are more concerned about the preservation of their rotten 
class privileges than about the interests of literature and art. 
Matthew Arnold was right about the Philistines, being 
himself a good bit of that kidney. We'll have to mend or 
end what we call education, or it will play the devil with us. 
Fancy a Carlylean aristocracy of talent, the country under 
the benevolent rule of Senior Wranglers and LL.D's ! 



102 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Or fancy a democracy educated up, or rather down, to the 
level of Oxford and Cambridge, as some even of our Socialist 
friends would have it ! ' 

He was reminded that John Ruskin had a year or two 
previously contested the Lord Rectorship of Glasgow 
University as a Tory Unionist, but had been badly defeated 
* But he called himself also the ** reddest of red Communists," ' 
Morris observed, 'and he deserved to be defeated for his 
pranks. But I don't suppose he was defeated because he 
called himself a red-hot Communist, or even because he 
held heterodox views about Capital and Labour. Your 
University folk knew and cared precious little about his views 
on these questions, or if they did, I fancy they took those 
views more seriously than did the stock-jobbers. He was 
defeated, I suspect, simply because he represented to the 
generality of the intellectuals what they particularly affect 
to esteem namely Literature and Art but which they really 
don't. Literature and Art are rebellious jades. They 
preferred an uninformed political reactionary because, 
as I have said, they sniff revolutionary trouble ahead, and 
they want to set up as stiff a political guard as they can for 
the protection of their class privileges.' 

The conversation turned for a bit on his translation 
of the Odyssey, and he discussed with MacLaren certain 
points in Greek idiom and grammar. Something was said 
about a recent attack on Morris by W. E. Henley in one of 
the magazines, but Morris dismissed the topic with a con- 
temptuous rap at ' Grub Street garbage.' 

After lunch I proposed to Morris that we should start 
an hour or so earlier than need be for the afternoon meeting, 
so as to have time for a look at the Cathedral. This he 
agreed to, and our companions having to leave us for engage- 
ments of their own, he and I set forth together. I took 
him up the old Saltmarket Street (famous in * Rob Roy '), 
where he halted every now and then to note some detail 
in the now old and shabby relics of the mansions where once 
Bailie Nicol Jarvie and the prosperous merchants of the city 



AS GUEST AND COMPANION 103 

dwelt. These old buildings in the Scottish baronial style 
of architecture interested him greatly. 

Turning along London Street (why we took this round- 
about route, I now forget) we struck down a narrow passage 
known as * Shipka Pass,' where, in the window of a quack 
doctor's herbal dispensary, were exhibited a ' Wax Venus ' 
anatomical model and illustrated literature of the Palais 
Royal type. There had recently been a good deal of satirical 
comment in the London press over the refusal of the Glasgow 
Town Council to accept for the Art Gallery a picture with 
a nude figure, the ground of their refusal being that the 
picture was * indecent.' The unexpected display, therefore, 
of pornographical wares in a public thoroughfare in the very 
heart of the city rather surprised Morris. I explained to 
him, however, that it was one thing for our * unco guid 
City Fathers,' as they were sarcastically called by their 
London critics, to refuse to accept and exhibit a picture which 
they thought objectionable, and another thing for them to 
suppress by prosecution a shopkeeper for exhibiting and 
selling what he was pleased to describe as * scientific works.' 

I did not, however, gather from Morris that he was 
wholly on the side of the London press. * There are,' he 
said, * some painters who are rum enough coves, and some 
paintings that are only fit for monkey-houses.' Meanwhile 
a big gaunt labourer, who had been gaping wonder-struck 
at the Wax Venus, now kept close by us, eyeing Morris with 
stupid curiosity. I suggested to Morris that the fellow 
evidently regarded him as the ' Famous Professor and 
Specialist,' referred to in the herbalist's window. Much 
amused, Morris began telling me a story about a country 
bumpkin returning home drunk from a fair. While telling 
the story we emerged from the ' Pass ' and were crossing 
the Gallowgate, a broad thoroughfare, just as he had reached 
the climax of the tale. In the zest of his recital he halted 
in the middle of the street, and oblivious to the astonishment 
of the passers-by and to my discomfiture, he dramatically 
imitated the drunken speech and gestures of the hero of the 



104 WILLIAM MORRIS 

tale. Visibly scandalised at what they conceived to be the 
drunken jollity of a Highland farmer or skipper who had 
been visiting some neighbouring * shebeen,' the passers-by 
cast reproachful glances at us both. One man, dressed in 
his ' Sunday best,' even made steps towards us with the intent, 
I could see, of reprimanding my companion for his unseemly 
state in a public thoroughfare on the Sabbath day ; but a 
forbidding gleam in my eye deterred him. As we were in 
a neighbourhood where the Socialist League frequently 
held meetings, and where I was likely to be recognised as 
' one of those Socialist agitators,' I was glad when we escaped 
public attention by turning up the nearest side street. Morris 
had not in the least noticed the spectacular interest which he 
had aroused, and of course I did not allude to it. 

When we arrived at the Cathedral a number of people, 
members of the choir perhaps, were passing out. Morris 
lingered a few moments in the outlying graveyard, looking 
at the inscriptions on the tombstones, and then we made 
towards the porch of the southern aisle which was used for 
public admission. 

We were within a few yards of the doorway when he 
stopped abruptly, as if struck by a rifle ball, his eyes fixed 
furiously on some object in front of him. As he glared he 
seemed to crouch like a lion for a leap at its prey, his whiskers 
bristling out. * What the hell is that ? Who the hell has 
done that ? ' he shouted, to the amaze, alarm, and indigna- 
tion of the people near by. 

I looked in the direction of his infuriated gaze, and saw 
at once what was the offending object. There it was ; con- 
spicuous enough a sculptured memorial or sarcophagus 
in shining white marble jammed into the old grey stone- 
work of the aisle, cutting through the string-courses of the 
base and projecting up into and completely cutting off a 
portion of the window above in truth an atrocious piece of 
vandalism. * What infernal idiot has done that ? ' Morris 
again demanded, and heedless of the consternation around 
him poured forth a torrent of invective against the unknown 



105 

perpetrators of the crime. For a moment I thought he 
might actually spring upon the excrescence and tear out the 
hateful thing with his bare fists. Meanwhile the scandalised 
onlookers, believing they were witnessing the distraction 
of some unfortunate fellow creature bereft of his reason, 
resumed their way, remarking compassionately about him 
to one another. 

The banging of the heavy studded doors of the porch 
by the sexton, closing the Cathedral until the evening service, 
arrested his invective. Anxious to divert his attention from 
the desecrating tablet, I remarked that we should not now 
gain admission into the interior of the Cathedral. * Damn 
the interior of the Cathedral ! ' he shouted. ' I've seen 
enough of the depredations of your Cathedral blockheads. 
Catch me putting my nose into another mess of restoration 
botchery.' 

Quitting the Cathedral ground, we turned towards the 
Necropolis, an eminence now converted into a public 
cemetery, which commands a wide view over the city. 

Glancing up at the huge mound speckled with glittering 
white tombstones and monuments, he remarked on the 
circumstance that Christian communities had failed to 
make tolerable architectural features of their burial places, 
even when, as in Glasgow and so many other towns, the 
most prominent and attractive situation had been appropriated 
for burying grounds. In Italy, where they had the tradition 
of the catacombs and the pantheons, some attempt had been 
made to give architectural importance to burial places, par- 
ticularly such as were preserves for the interment of rich 
and illustrious persons. But, generally speaking, he said, 
cemeteries were amongst the most incongruous and posi- 
tively unsightly creations of civilised man. The only 
burial places that showed even decency of public taste were 
some of the old churchyards, where simple stone tablets or 
slabs had been made of the same kind of stone as the adjoining 
church, which became veiled in a kindly way by the grass or 
yew bushes. Yet it was surely possible to devise some sort of 



io6 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Houses of the Dead, which, while frankly declaring their 
purpose, were yet beautiful and impressive as an expression 
of religious and communal feeling. The older civilisations, 
as we know, attached great importance to their burial places, 
making imposing temples of them. But in this, as in so 
many other things, individual and family vanity and private 
property feeling had completely obstructed the development 
of what might have been one of the noblest expressions of 
communal feeling. 

The John Knox obelisk monument, a large Doric 
column surmounted by a statue of the famous reformer, 
is the most prominent feature of the Necropolis. I 
expected Morris would poke fun at it, but he was only 
gently satirical. * He does look as though he were the 
Lord of Sabaoth up there, don't he ? Or shall we say, 
Shepherd of the Dead ? But he was something of a hero 
and that too despite the fact that Carlyle said so, my friend. 
He was, in his own way, a great reformer. He had a big 
idea of making the people upright and self-respecting and 
intelligent, concerning not only the affairs of the Church 
but the public weal according to his lights. He was not 
such a narrow-minded zealot as were so many of your 
respected presbyters of later date. You see, Dr. Glasse of 
Edinburgh has been coaching me up on your kirk history. 
He read me parts of the " Book of Discipline," which I think 
most sensible stuff.' 

I mentioned that the Jewish burying-ground, which 
was situated in the upper corner of the Necropolis, had 
inscribed on its gateway the lines from Byron's * Hebrew 
Melodies,' beginning : 

' Oh, weep for those that wept by Babel's stream,' 

one of the few tributes to the Jewish race in Christian 
literature. 

Morris, however, showed no desire to see the inscription. 
He remarked, * Byron's ** Hebrew Melodies " were a bit 
" put on," don't you think ? although there was something 



AS GUEST AND COMPANION 107 

in the glamour of things Jewish that attracted him. But 
I'm not " begrudging " him his sympathy with the Jews. 
I'm no Jew-hater. As likely as not I belong to one of the 
lost ten tribes.' 

* But where are we going ? Why are we here ? ' he 
asked, suddenly halting, as we were walking along one of the 
cemetery paths. 

* Indeed, I do not know,' I replied, and explained that 
on finding the Cathedral closed I had taken him for a walk 
round. But it was now time, I said, for us to be getting 
to the meeting on the Green. 

He was much amused. * And so you brought me to a 
cemetery by the way of pleasant recreation,' he said with a 
twinkle. * I suspect it's in the blood, my boy, and that the 
saying about Scotchmen enjoying going to funerals is not a 
defamatory one. But after preaching you, as I did a few 
minutes ago, a discourse according to the example of my 
fellow-countryman, Sir Thomas Browne, on funeral urns, 
I had better not heave any more stones at your Scottish taste 
for tombstones.' 

On the way back, notwithstanding his vexation at the 
Cathedral and his ' reflection among the tombs,' he was, as 
usual, brimful of pleasantry about the oddity of things he 
observed by the way. 

Towards the foot of the High Street, the neighbourhood 
of which at that period was a congeries of slums, the throng 
of children became so dense that we had to thread our way 
as through a market crowd. Having almost no room to 
play in, the youngsters were inclined to be more noisy and 
mischievous in their pranks, and passengers displaying any 
peculiarity of appearance rarely escaped their larkish com- 
pliments. Morris and myself, with our shock hair, soft 
hats, and unconventional make-up, doubtless looked a some- 
what outlandish pair, and presented a conspicuous mark 
for their jocosity ; and we had to run the gauntlet of a more 
than usual fairing of their salutation and mimicry. * Oh, 
my, look what's coming ! ' * Hide yer ! ' * Buffalo Bill ! ' 



io8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

' Holy Moses ! ' * Run and lock the park gates, Jamie ! ' 
and like exclamations heralded our way. Morris with 
his grand, elderly, seafaring mien, attracted the brunt of 
the waggery. One urchin fronted him with a respectful 
gesture. * You'll find one just over the way, sir,' he said 
solicitously. * Find what, my little man ? ' asked Morris 
unsuspectingly. * A hairdresser, sir ' and a chime of 
laughter greeted the sally, while a little girl seated on the 
kerb with an infant in her arms piped out, * Dinna mind 
them, mister, they're jist trying tae mak' a fool o' ye.' 
A troop of youngsters fell into line behind us, chanting 
improvised doggerel: 

* Sailor, sailor ; sou'west ! 
Dance a jig in the crow's nest ! * 

Morris, who was accustomed to the guffaw of juvenile 
plebeians in the lower quarters of London, took this sportive- 
ness wholly in good part, occasionally returning their banter 
con amore, much to the little larrikins' delight. He remarked 
on the exceeding cleverness, and often ingenious wit, displayed 
by children when in play together, especially in the poorer 
districts where they were freer from the tutelage of grown- 
ups, and had developed clan or community traditions of 
their own. * But the faculty soon withers,' he added; 
* the poor things become dull and vacant-minded once they 
grow out of childhood and lose the sap of the common stem. 
The natural well-springs of their imagination become soiled 
and run dry.' 

Jail Square, as the wide pavement opening in front of 
Glasgow Green is called, is, or was, the most popular public 
forum in Scotland, and I suppose in Great Britain. Every 
week-night and all Sunday the Square is thronged by groups 
of men, mostly of the working class, listening eagerly to 
the debates on topics of religion and politics in those 
days chiefly Catholicism versus Protestantism, Calvinism, 
Atheism, Spiritualism, Home Rule, Henry Georgeism, 
Republicanism, and Socialism. A portion of the space 



AS GUEST AND COMPANION 109 

close to the railings of the park was by custom reserved for 
the speechifying of religious or political propaganda bodies, 
stools or chairs being used as platforms. 

Morris was greatly taken with the scene. His heart 
seemed to warm at the sight of the crowded groups of dis- 
putants, as if it recalled to him something of the early folk- 
moot and market-place assemblies of which he always wrote 
so affectionately. But our time was nearly spent, and I took 
him towards the group against the railings where the League 
meeting was in full swing. Pete Curran, afterwards 
Labour M.P. for Jarrow, was speaking, and recognising 
Morris he cut short his speech announcing that the author 
of ' The Earthly Paradise ' would now address the meeting 
an announcement that at once caused the crowd to gather in. 

Morris mounted the stool and spoke for about twenty 
minutes. He referred to the recent Free Speech troubles 
in London, and congratulated the working men of Glasgow 
on having preserved the right of Free Speech on so large 
a scale in the heart of the city. He explained in quite simple 
terms the aims of Socialism, avoiding the usual jargon 
phrases of the movement. Referring to what he had just 
seen of the way in which the children of the poor were pent 
up dismally in the slums, he contrasted the ugly and sordid 
conditions of the lives of the people generally with what 
might be and ought to be in a civilised and wealthy nation 
his allusions alike to the rich and the poor being wholly 
untinged with cynicism or insult. 

Several questions were put to him, one of which was: 
* In one of the evening papers last night you are described 
as a rich man. Are you willing to submit to a general 
divide of riches ? ' 

* I am not quite a rich man, as rich men go nowadays,' 
replied Morris; * but I am richer than I ought to be compared 
with the mass of my fellows ; or rather, perhaps, I shall say 
they are poorer than they ought to be. I am more than 
willing that my riches, such as they are, should be put into 
the common stock of the nation ; and I shall rejoice to 



no WILLIAM MORRIS 

work for the community, and give it the benefit of whatever 
talent or skill I possess, for the same wages that I demand 
for, and that the nation could afford to pay, under a proper 
economic and moral system, to every workman dustman, 
blacksmith, or bricklayer in the land.' A big cheer 
greeted the reply. 

The word having gone round that it was William Morris, 
the famous poet, who was addressing the Socialist crowd, 
the audience had grown to quite a large one ; but I had now 
to hurry him off in order that he might have a cup of tea 
before the evening meeting. He was heartily cheered as 
he dismounted from the stool. A small contingent of people 
followed us a bit of the way, eager to have a better look at 
the distinguished and attractive * Poet, Artist, and Socialist.' 

The evening meeting was a great success. The 
Waterloo Hall was filled with about 800 people, the majority 
of whom had paid 6d. and 3^. for admission, and at the con- 
clusion of the lecture a resolution in favour of Socialism 
was adopted almost unanimously. 

As our custom was, we adjourned from the Hall after 
the meeting to the branch rooms, where Morris smoked and 
talked and sang with us for a goodly hour. 



CHAPTER XII 

CAMPAIGNING DAY AT HAMMERSMITH 

BETWEEN the years 1889 and 1893 I made occasional 
week-end visits to Morris at Hammersmith, taking part 
in the Sunday propaganda of the local branch. The branch, 
which on the break-up of the League in 1 890 changed its 
name into the Hammersmith Socialist Society, had its head- 
quarters at Kelmscott House, then the most active, as it 
was the most famous, centre of Socialist propaganda in 
London. An account of a typical week-end spent with 
Morris and our Hammersmith comrades will therefore, 
I think, be interesting to my readers. 

Usually I arrived at Hammersmith from Scotland on 
the Saturday afternoon, and passed the evening with Morris 
at home. The earlier part of the evening would likely 
be spent with Mrs. Morris and Jenny in the drawing-room, 
when Morris would read aloud from some favourite book. 
Thereafter he and I would sit in the library, where one or 
two friends would gather for a chat. Among those likely 
to be with us were Emery Walker, John Carruthers, Philip 
Webb, Catterson Smith, Cobden-Sanderson, and other 
Socialist friends living in the neighbourhood ; occasionally, 
after Sunday lectures, other friends from more distant parts 
of London might call in. 

What rare symposia these little gatherings in the library 
were ! Somewhere in the cabinets of my memory a record 
of the conversations and discussions has doubtless been 
preserved, but only as dried flowers are in the leaves of a 

in 



ii2 WILLIAM MORRIS 

book, their colour faded, their fragrance and essence gone. 
In Morris' company conversation could never sink into 
banality. His presence inhibited idle and paltry chatter 
He was fond of playfulness and humour, but was the deadly 
enemy of indolence as of mere levity of mind. 

The room itself had a spell for the imagination. One 
could not fail to see that some tutelary genius had its abode 
in it. Looking around the room, all so charming in the 
natural simplicity of its furniture only useful and beautiful 
things were there, masterpieces of literature and priceless 
old volumes, Diirer engravings and rare pieces of craftsman- 
ship, and all so kindly lit up in the tranquil candle-light 
with its ambient shadows one was conscious of that 
companionableness in all about one that one feels in a deep 
forest glade. At times the room seemed a very sanctuary 
of the Muses or an Abbot's cloister ; but its aspects, like 
its master's moods, were many, and seemed to change 
responsively. I remember how transfigured it appeared 
that night the Saturday night of the week-end visit which 
I am about to describe. Morris was in a particularly 
insurgent mood. He had been rating Gladstone and the 
Liberal Party, which led someone to remark incautiously 
that the Tories were really more in sympathy with liberty 
and democracy than the Liberals, citing in support of this 
view some dictum of Dr. Johnson's. 

Morris was Johnsonian in his reply. He asked what 
liberty or democracy the Tories had ever agitated or fought 
for ? In the country districts the Tories were on their 
own dunghill, and what sort of liberty or democracy had 
they given the poor agricultural labourers there ? He 
pursued this vein, recalling facts from history and his own 
observation, at first in an argumentative way, but gradually 
firing himself up into a magnificent polemic against the 
aristocracy, the Church, and eventually the whole property- 
grabbing class system of modern society. The oppression 
of Egypt and Ireland, and the police attack in Trafalgar 
Square, he tossed as flaming faggots into his indictment. 



CAMPAIGNING AT HAMMERSMITH 113 

Amazingly rebellious things took flight in his imagination, 
and as I sat there enthralled by the marvel of his words and 
his wonderful personality, the room with its antique emblems 
seemed to become more and more remote from the outside 
world. I remember noticing how the tobacco smoke 
from our pipes hung about the ceiling in dim serpent-like 
coils, and my enjoying a feeling of mystery and adventure 
much as a school-boy might feel in a smuggler's cave or 
on a pirate's quarter-deck. 

During the last thirty years of his life it was an estab- 
lished custom with Morris to breakfast every Sunday morn- 
ing with Burne-Jones, when both were in town. This 
custom, which was one of his most cherished enjoyments, 
and one of the few practices of personal regimen which 
did not give way to the urgency of Socialist engagements, 
prevented his joining regularly in the Sunday morning 
propaganda of the movement. Owing, however, to the 
occasional absence from town of Burne-Jones, and to the 
fact that Morris often imposed on himself the self-denying 
ordinance of shortening his after-breakfast chats with his 
friend, there were for several years few Sunday forenoons 
that Morris did not take part in the Hammersmith meeting, 
or speak in Hyde Park, Victoria Park, or elsewhere in London. 

The Sunday morning of my visit was not one of his 
Burne-Jones mornings, and he was scheduled as one of the 
speakers at Hammersmith Bridge, the favourite Sunday- 
morning pitch of the branch. Shortly after ten o'clock 
Emery Walker and one or two other members called in, in 
order to take with them the literature and banner for the 
meeting, and together we all (the callers-in, Morris, May 
Morris, and myself) sallied forth for our rendezvous. The 
banner of the branch, designed by Crane and worked by 
May Morris, was a handsome ensign, and Morris, who, as 
we know, was immensely fond of all communal regalia, 
bore it furled on its pole over his shoulder and a fine 
banner-bearer he was to see. 

It was a glorious morning, and the propaganda strength 



1 1 4 WILLIAM MORRIS 

of the branch was well represented at the bridge, among 
those present being Morris, May Morris, Mrs. Cobden- 
Sanderson, Mrs. Watt, Beasley, Tarleton, Catterson Smith, 
Bullock, Bridges Adams, Davies, the Grant brothers, 
Tochatti, and Mordhorst. 

At least five or six of us spoke. This was more than 
usual, and much too many, and Tarleton grumbled that 
they ought instead to have divided themselves and held 
another meeting elsewhere. As it was, though the speeches 
were all, except in one instance, short ones, the meeting 
was prolonged beyond the usual hour i P.M. with the 
result that three-fourths of the audience had melted away 
into the neighbouring public-houses, which opened at that 
hour, before a collection arranged for that morning could 
be taken and a proper opportunity afforded for questions. 

The audience at the bridge consisted for the most part of 
working-men, who were accustomed to spend an hour or 
so on Sunday morning lounging on the bridge before dinner 
hour or public-house time. The majority of them seemed 
quite amicably disposed towards the Socialist meeting, but 
did not trouble themselves much about politics. Occasionally 
one of them would join the branch, an event that was 
announced at the next business meeting. There was 
not wanting, however, a sufficient spice of opposition on 
the part of one or two habitues, men from the Tory- 
Democratic camp, who interjected questions and occasionally 
insisted on stating their views. One of these the most 
harassing of them, in fact eventually declared himself 
a convert to Socialism and joined the branch an acquisi- 
tion which proved a misfortune in disguise. As an inter- 
rupter and opponent this individual excited interest at the 
meetings, and gave easy points to our speakers ; but as 
an evangelist of Socialism he did not shine. He was so 
blundering in his argument, and so obviously disreputable 
in his boozing habits, that the branch prayed audibly for his 
reconversion to his old anti-Socialist principles and his 
return to the Tory fold. 



CAMPAIGNING AT HAMMERSMITH 115 

The branch at the period I am speaking of was in great 
propaganda fettle, and in addition to the usual morning 
meeting, and an early evening meeting at Walham Green 
or elsewhere, and the usual indoor evening lecture in the 
hall, a few of the more ardent propagandists were running 
a special series of afternoon meetings in Ravenscourt Park. 
Morris was not asked to take part in this supplementary 
mission of the branch, his comrades realising the claims which 
the editing of Commonweal and his own literary work 
had upon his time. 

Together with Bullock, the Grants, Tochatti, and others, 
I took part in holding the meeting in the park, where we 
succeeded in gathering a big crowd, mostly of the better- 
to-do office and shop-keeping class. It was a capital 
audience to speak to, with its provoking air of respectability, 
but I doubt if much was achieved in the way of * making 
Socialists ' among them. They were, I fear, exceedingly 
stony ground. But, anyway, we were spreading the word. 

Later in the afternoon, previous to our going to the 
evening meeting at Walham Green, Bernard Shaw had 
called in on his way to some special Fabian committee, 
which was to be held at May Morris' house farther along 
the riverside at Hammersmith Terrace. This was the first 
time I had met Shaw. Morris, I remember, was showing 
Hooper, Walker and myself proofs of initial letters printed 
in red for his Kelmscott Press, asking whether we liked the 
colour. Hooper and Walker expressed themselves pleased 
with it, but, feeling myself technically incompetent on such 
a matter, I ventured no remarks. On Shaw's entering, 
Morris asked his opinion. Examining the print for a moment, 
Shaw said that he thought the colour a little too light 
too yellowish, I think he said. Morris looked at the print 
again, holding it at various distances from his eyes. ' Umph ! 
Perhaps you may be right,' he said. * I'll have proofs 
pulled to-morrow in a deeper tint, and see how it looks.* 

On rising to go, Shaw said to me, * You are lecturing 
to-night. I should like to hear you, but I expect our 



n6 WILLIAM MORRIS 

committee meeting will keep me rather late. Of course, 
I know that you have some sensible things to say, but are 
you going to say anything fresh heretical, I mean ? If so, 
I shall make an effort to come ; but if you are going to keep 
on the beaten track, it's hardly worth my while, is it ? ' 
I replied with conventional modesty that I did not suppose 
that anything I had to say was likely to be either new or 
particularly heretical to him. * Ah well,' he said, * you 
won't mind if I postpone the pleasure of hearing your 
Scottish wit and wisdom till another occasion,' and with 
that he made off. This was the first time I had met Shaw, 
and the bluntness of his civility was a novel experience. 
As a matter of fact, he was the only person besides Morris 
likely to be at the meeting whose opinion on the argument 
of my lecture I should specially have liked to hear. His 
announcement, therefore, that he would not be present, was 
a disappointment to me, none the less so because he had made 
me unwittingly accessory to his absence. 

In the evening Morris accompanied us to Walham 
Green, where he, Catterson Smith, Bullock, and myself 
addressed a fair-sized crowd of people of the artisan type, 
who seemed to take quite an intelligent interest in the 
speeches. Here, as at Hammersmith Bridge, Morris 
vigorously pushed the sale of literature while the other 
speakers were holding forth, going round the ring with a 
bundle of Commonweals and pamphlets under his arm, 
and inviting the listeners in a brotherly way to sample some 
of his wares. Sometimes a listener would seem to hesitate 
about parting with a penny for a purchase, whereupon 
Morris would say, * Well, my friend, never mind about 
payment. I'll stand that if you'll promise to read the 
paper. You can hand it on to someone else when you're 
done with it.' 

Morris and I hurried back early from the meeting, as 
I was due to lecture in the hall at eight o'clock, and he 
was to take the chair. 

The famous meeting-room was an out-building attached 



CAMPAIGNING AT HAMMERSMITH 117 

to the side of Kelmscott House the house itself having, 
previous to Morris' tenancy, been the residence of Dr. 
George Mac Donald, the celebrated story writer and 
mystic, and before that of Sir Francis Rolands, the inventor 
of the electric telegraph. The outhouse was originally a 
stable, but was turned by Morris into a carpet- weaving and 
designing room, and later he had it fitted up as a meeting- 
place for the Hammersmith Socialists. It was a long room, 
with the floor raised three steps at the further end, forming 
a dais or platform with a side door leading into the garden 
of the house. It was quite simply furnished, and visitors 
who expected, as it seems many did, to find it fitted up as 
a sort of Morris art show-room were disappointed with its 
severely utilitarian character. The furniture consisted of 
rush-bottom chairs and several long wooden forms, a lecture 
table on the platform, and a bookstall near the entrance. 
The plain whitewashed walls were covered with rush 
matting. One or two engravings, portraits of Sir Thomas 
More and other Socialist pioneers, and copies of Walter 
Crane's famous Socialist cartoons were hung on either side 
of the room. The banner of the branch was displayed 
behind the platform, on which there were a piano and some 
copies of Roman mosaics. 

The fame of Morris brought visitors literary men, 
artists, politicians, and Socialists almost every Sunday 
evening to the meetings. Many distinguished people from 
America and foreign countries had heard Socialism preached 
here for the first time in their lives. Almost every notable 
Socialist speaker, irrespective of party, had spoken from its 
platform, some of them many times. Among the list might 
be mentioned Kropotkin, Stepniak, Lawrence Gronlund, 
Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Mrs. Webb, Graham Wallas, 
Mrs. Besant, Sydney Olivier, Hyndman, Herbert Burrows, 
J. A. Hobson, John Burns, Pete Curran, John Carruthers, 
Walter Crane, Philip Webb, Cobden-Sanderson and Ramsay 
Macdonald. Morris and Shaw, however, were the most 
frequent lecturers above all, Morris himself. 



n8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

When not engaged lecturing elsewhere, Morris waa 
always present, and was usually called upon to preside, and 
liked to do so. But, whether in the chair or not, Morris 
invariably took part in the after discussion. It was also 
his custom when at home to invite the lecturer of the even- 
ing, together with one or two friends, to supper after the 
meeting. To be asked to these supper gatherings was 
a coveted privilege, and with his usual consideration 
Morris was careful to invite, as occasion allowed, one 
or two of the least prominent members of the branch, so 
that none was denied the honqyr and hospitality of his 
table. 

The subject of my lecture was ' Social and Physical 
Equality.' I had taken great pains in preparing the notes, 
writing out part of the lecture in full, alike because I felt 
it was incumbent on me to sustain as best I could the reputa- 
tion of the Kelmscott House platform, and because the 
subject was one which I thought would, if well handled, 
be of interest to the more thoughtful Socialists among my 
hearers. 

It was, I confess, a notable event for me to lecture at 
Kelmscott House with Morris in the chair. 

The main argument of my lecture was (i) that equality 
of social conditions would inevitably tend towards greater 
equality of bodily and mental powers, and (2) that this 
greater equality of physical powers as well as of social con- 
ditions would operate to increase the nobler diversity of 
character and multiply the means of happiness in life, by 
eliminating the violent, ugly, and hateful contrasts, not only 
of wealth and poverty, but of health and disease, strength 
and weakness, ability and stupidity, and beauty and ugliness 
in the human race. Diversity resulting from defect of 
mind or body was not and could not be a source of beauty 
or happiness to any but depraved minds. It was one of 
Morris' habits when presiding at meetings to murmur 
assent or disapproval at what was being said, keeping his 
hand meanwhile employed drawing bits of ornament, 



CAMPAIGNING AT HAMMERSMITH 119 

sprays of foliage, initial letters and such-like, and using for 
the purpose the backs of envelopes, blotting-paper, handbills, 
or any scrap of paper that lay at hand. On this occasion 
he * illuminated ' several envelopes while I was speaking 
one of which I have preserved and commented freely, 
mostly in monosyllables, on my statements. His expres- 
sions were for the most part favourable, chiefly emphasis 
of approval ; but I none the less felt unusually ill at ease 
when speaking, and often had difficulty in finding the right 
word. In particular I remember that I stumbled into the 
frequent use of the word * predicates ' as a verb, in the sense 
of ' implies ' or ' involves' as a consequence (a piece of scientific 
jargon I had learnt from Spencer, I think). Morris visibly 
squirmed every time I used the word, but, try as I would 
to avoid it, the offensive Latinism obtruded itself at every 
opportunity. 

He was on his feet inviting questions almost before I 
sat down. They came pell-mell, but most of them were 
irrelevant, and Morris promptly told the questioners con- 
cerned that they were so. Discussion followed. Among 
the first to speak was a young lady sitting near the back of 
the hall (who, I afterwards learned, was quite a stranger). 
She was evidently in a state of nervous excitement, and 
spoke so low that we on the platform only ascertained what 
she had said after the meeting was over. It appears that 
she expostulated ' Oh, Mr. Morris, don't you think it 
is wrong in a man of your great talents and influence to be 
engaged in leading these young men astray astray from 
God's truth into the dangerous paths of Atheism and 
revolution ? ' Adding a few more words of religious appeal, 
she sat down, but immediately afterwards rose and hastened 
from the room like an affrighted spirit poor girl ! It is a 
pity Morris did not hear what she said. His reply would, 
we may be sure, have quietened if not banished her fears, 
and maybe have lessened the distress of her soul, evidently 
deeply sincere, by giving her a juster thought of the ways 
alike of God and her Socialist fellowmen. 



120 WILLIAM MORRIS 

The discussion, like the questions, was very discursive. 
The usual * cranks ' had their usual say each dilating on 
his own particular theme. Tochatti, an Anarchist tailor 
from Glasgow, discoursed on the advantages of Anarchism 
over State Socialism, inasmuch as Anarchism would allow 
the free play of all our human faculties without artificial 
hindrances of any kind. This observation brought to his 
feet Mordhorst, a Danish Socialist, who insisted that it 
was not less law but more law that we needed law that 
would sternly put down landlordism, sweating, and all 
other abominations of the existing Capitalist system. He 
was followed by Munsey, a postal telegraphic official, a 
very earnest worker in the branch, who complained that 
the lectures were becoming too learned and far-fetched for 
useful Socialist teaching. What was wanted was plain 
statements of Socialist economics, such as a workman 
could understand. The subject discussed by the lecturer 
was, he said, no doubt interesting, but it did not concern 
Socialists much at present. What we had to do was to 
get the workers organised for Socialism. The Social 
Revolution depended solely on the working class. ' Who 
would be free, themselves must strike the blow.' 

These familiar free-lances, having fired their shafts, 
the discussion was continued by several speakers who took 
up the theme of the lecture, and made some instructive 
points of criticism. Morris himself, in concluding the 
debate, which he had listened to with much more patience 
than I had expected, said he had greatly enjoyed the lecture. 
Many of the ideas in it were fresh and interesting to him. 
He heartily agreed that all diversities of body and mind 
which implied suffering, inferiority, or incapacity of any 
kind for the service or enjoyment of life, were hateful. 
No right-thinking person could derive pleasure or pride 
from beholding among their fellows the lack of capacity for 
giving happiness to others, any more than the lack of means 
of obtaining happiness for themselves. Yet these were the 
chief diversities that life afforded to-day 



CAMPAIGNING AT HAMMERSMITH 121 

At supper-table after the meeting the subject of in- 
tellectual and physical equality was taken up again, and 
we listened to highly interesting accounts of the difference of 
capacity amongst the races in South America from John 
Carruthers, who as a railway engineer and contractor had 
great experience of the industrial habits of the people in 
that part of the world. It was midnight when Morris 
wished his guests * good-night ' cheerily at the door. 

Such was one Sunday's campaigning at Hammersmith. 
* You must feel jolly tired I do,' said Morris, as he showed 
me upstairs to bed, candle in hand. * Making Socialists 
is rather a stiff sort of art work, don't you think ? ' 



CHAPTER XIII 

LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE 

WHEN in 1888 at the Whitsunday Annual Conference of 
the League the parliamentarian faction were decisively 
out-voted and asked to withdraw from the Party, there 
was for the moment a general expectation among the victors 
that the troubles within the League were over, and that 
its work would now proceed unimpeded by internal strife. 
Morris, however, was far from hopeful of that result. He 
knew the movement both in London and in the Provinces 
better than anyone else did, and he was too quick of eye 
not to discern the new peril of the situation. Returning 
that evening from the Conference to Hammersmith he 
remarked to me rather gloomily, * We have got rid of the 
parliamentarians, and now our anarchist friends will want 
to drive the team. However, we have the Council and 
the Commonweal safe with us for at least a twelve-month, 
and that is something to be thankful for.' 

This uneasy feeling about what had occurred was often 
expressed by Morris during my visit. There was, he said, 
something unnatural in casting out comrades who, however 
perverse in their methods, wished to remain banded with 
us. It didn't feel Socialist-like. Had their object been to 
break away from the League, as indeed in consistency to 
their principles they ought to have done, the position would 
have been quite different. Besides, he felt within himself 
that should it ever come to a choice with him between 
having to rank himself on the side of parliamentarianism 

122 



LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE 123 

or on the side of anarchism, he would unhesitatingly 
choose the former. 

Morris' apprehensions about anarchism were deep and 
instinctive. He dreaded the doctrine all the more because 
he agreed with Anarchists in a great measure in their general 
affirmation of freedom, and in their belief in voluntary as 
opposed to compulsory co-operation. But their denial of 
social authority and discipline, their strong assertion of 
individual rather than of social rights, their emphasis of the 
sovereignty or autonomy of the individual, and their constant 
tendency to view society as the enemy instead of the friend 
of man, and, while declaring men to be on the whole indi- 
vidually good and trustworthy, at the same time ceaselessly 
to rail against organised society as inherently wicked and 
tyrannical, were notions alien alike to his temperament 
and his reason. He had no patience with the idea that 
men, apart from the environment of society its education, 
customs, and co-operation were naturally unselfish, amiable, 
or God-like creatures ; nor that ' free ' from organised 
society they could attain any human eminence or happiness 
Neither the * freedom ' of Rousseau's * Man in a State of 
Nature,' nor that of Thoreau's * Solitude in the Woods,' 
appealed to him. He saw that all things that pleased him 
in life work, art, literature, fellowship, civic courage 
and social custom were the outcome of men associating 
with, not of men separating themselves from, their fellows, 
either in work or woe. 

In fine, he was a Socialist, not an Anarchist. He believed 
that man was a social being whose welfare depended on the 
welfare of Society and on his sharing in its common rights 
and freedom, not on his striving to assert his own separate 
powers or inclinations. 

Nevertheless, Morris liked many of the Anarchists 
personally. He shared, as I have said, their desire for 
freedom as against all class or arbitrary rule. In many 
ways, too, he shared with men like Edward Carpenter and 
Bernard Shaw their disregard of habits and conventions 



124 WILLIAM MORRIS 

that belonged to obsolete social or religious systems and 
prevented the freer growth of individual initiative and 
variety in life. Nor had he hitherto found much difficulty 
in working with Anarchists on a common platform. He 
had often addressed meetings with Kropotkin (and to the 
last remained his personal friend), with Mrs. C. M. Wilson, 
Louise Michel, and other pronounced Anarchists, and 
several of his colleagues in the Council of the League were 
decidedly Anarchist in their views. It had indeed been 
easier on the whole for him to get on with the Anarchists 
than with the parliamentarians, for the simple reason that 
the matter of parliamentary policy was involved in almost 
every practical question that arose, whereas Anarchism as 
a practical system was, or seemed to be, a question of the 
far future. 

But already it was becoming evident to him and to other 
of the more observant members of the League in London 
and in the Provinces, that Anarchism was no longer an 
abstract theory merely. The Anarchist idea was gaining 
more and more adherents in the Party ; and with their 
growth in numbers they were becoming increasingly bold 
in their efforts to apply their principles both within and 
without the organisation. 

There was, in fact, a sort of current of Anarchism 
rising in the Socialist Movement a current which a year 
or two later threatened to carry away with it a large part 
of the more active propagandists. 

It was difficult just then to account for this circumstance. 
There appeared to be something mysterious in its origin 
and mode of diffusion. It was hardly to be ascribed to 
any circumstance in the political or industrial situation of 
the time. It was rather a reaction of influences within the 
Movement itself. Nowhere did Anarchism spring up spon- 
taneously, so to speak, in the country, as Socialism so often 
did. It grew and spread only within the Socialist Movement^ 
parasitically in the branches a fact which accords with general 
experience of Anarchist propaganda in other countries. 



LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE 125 

Men are often what is described as ' born Socialists ' 
born, that is to say, with altruistic natures, abhorrent of all 
social wrong, and with minds easily attracted by Utopian 
ideas. Men are also often enough ' born individualists ' 
wholly obsessed, that is to say, with their own self-interests 
and desires. Men are never * born Anarchists.' Anar- 
chism is not an innate predisposition in man ; it is an 
acquired state of mind, and a very unstable one usually. 
The Anarchist is either a Socialist who has got muddled 
with individualist ideas, or an individualist who has got 
muddled with Socialist ideas. 

Undoubtedly the presence in the movement of a large 
element of foreign refugees, particularly from Russia and 
Poland and Spain, afforded Anarchism a stimulating soil 
for growth. These exiles, bred under Tsarist despotism, 
knowing government only as a machine of oppression, 
and possessing no attachment to British traditions of con- 
stitutional liberty, and often failing to acquire any deep 
sense of civic responsibility, were naturally disposed to 
favour ' autonomist ' and insurrectionary ideas. It was 
amongst these people also that the police agents of foreign 
governments were for ever prowling for their victims. 

And here, as events proved, we are near to the main 
source of the * propaganda by deed ' excitement which, under 
the name of Anarchism, so widely infected the movement 
at that period. That this Anarchist propaganda was 
organised and stimulated by police spies and agents provo- 
cateurs^ admits of no doubt. The subsequent tragic in- 
cidents of the Walsall Anarchist bomb plot, and the reve- 
lations that then and afterwards ensued, especially in 
connection with the notorious Coulon, proved that for 
years the police had been at work devising Anarchist plots 
and inveigling dupes into their criminal net. 

The Socialist League was, of course, particularly 
vulnerable to Anarchist propaganda, because of its avowedly 
revolutionary aims, and anti-parliamentary policy. Many 
of its members found it difficult to draw the line dearly 



126 WILLIAM MORRIS 

between the League principles and Anarchism, just as on 
the other hand many Fabians found no obstacle to their 
supporting Liberalism in opposition to Labour. Even 
Morris himself, clear as he was in his own mind as to the 
fundamental distinction and opposition of the two philo- 
sophies, could not always in precept or in practice separate 
them. Especially was this the case when dealing with 
his immediate associates at the headquarters of the League, 
some of whom he personally liked though disapproving 
their autonomist views and inflammatory utterances. The 
consequence was that already at the headquarters, as well 
as in some of the branches, Anarchistic ways of a disquieting 
nature were beginning to establish themselves. 

The Anarchistic emphasis on no rules, no censorship, 
no * bourgeois ' morality, was, in fact, beginning to sap 
the stamina of certain of the branches and clubs ; and a 
tendency was noticeable, not only of a lapsing from Socialist 
principles, but from moral standards. An affected bravado 
of ' do as you please and damn public opinion ' was accepted 
as a substitute for any declaration or witness of Socialist 
conviction ; and the specious catchword * propaganda by 
deed,' which was beginning to allure some of the more 
earnest members from the drudgery of holding public 
meetings into dalliance with revolutionary heroics, was not 
always interpreted in a political sense. The Autonomie 
Club, becoming bolder and bolder, were about to issue 
a few years later (1894) leaflets entitled 'Vive le Vol * 
(' Long live 'Theft '), and even to justify theft not only 
on the part of the poor from the rich, but by comrades from 
comrades. 

It was the apprehension aroused by these personal 
bizarre extravagances, more than their mere political intran- 
sigence, that vexed and repelled Morris. Strongly opposed 
as he was to the diversion of Socialist propaganda from 
its real object, ' the making of Socialists,' into attempts to 
excite insurrections that would only lead to fruitless blood- 



LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE 127 

shed, and head the nation back to sheer reaction, he was 
not really alarmed on that score. There was, he knew, not 
the least likelihood of the Anarchists succeeding in arousing 
any proletarian insurrection in this country. But he saw 
clearly that their present course must inevitably end in 
tragic consequences to some of themselves or to their dupes 
at the hands of the police, and that meanwhile their conduct 
was calculated to demoralise the movement, destroy the 
tradition, and deface the ideals of the Socialist cause. 

Not that Morris desired that Socialism or Socialists 
should approve themselves to what is termed the noncon- 
formist conscience. But he wished Socialism to approve 
itself to earnest-minded Socialists themselves, and to all 
good-hearted and right-headed men and women. He 
often said of himself that he was not a puritan ; and in the 
customary or scoffing sense of the word he assuredly was 
not But there was a sense in which it might be said of him 
that not only was he a puritan, but a puritan of the puritans. 
No man was more repelled by, or more sternly disapproved 
unsocial conduct, or actions that he regarded as dishonour- 
able, base, ugly, or cruel. He had, it is true, no liking for 
asceticism, dinginess, or mere straitlacedness of any kind. 
Merry-making and jollity were after his own heart, and one 
of the constant affirmations in his writings was that only 
under Socialism could real merriment and joy in life abound. 
But feasting and mirth must be won by work and diligence 
in the needful duties of life ; it must not be taken by idleness 
and thoughtless self-indulgence. With Bohemianism as a 
cult, or the bravado of hedonism, he had no sympathy 
whatever. Debauchery, blackguardism, idleness, and loose- 
ness of life he abominated, as greatly as he admired George 
Borrow, and revelled in ' Pickwick ' and the fun and 
mischief of ' Huckleberry Finn,' precisely because they 
were expressions of strong, resourceful, or good-natured 
character, and protests against humdrum ways of life. 

The men, as I have said, with whom Morris was most 



128 WILLIAM MORRIS 

closely associated in the official work of the League at that 
time were Joe Lane, Frank Kitz, and David J. Nicol. 
Lane was co-trustee with Morris of the Commonweal, 
Nicol was sub-editor, and Kitz was Secretary of the 
League. 

Lane I hardly knew personally, having only met him 
once or twice at conferences. He was an intensely 
earnest man, but as I gathered, of a rather narrow, doc- 
trinaire mind, who perpetually worried himself and others 
with his pet dogma the iniquity of the State, and the 
necessity of the complete abolition of all political government. 
Nevertheless Morris had much respect for him. 

Frank Kitz was of a wholly different mould. He was 
a dyer by trade, and had sometimes been employed by Morris 
at his Merton Abbey works. He was, I always understood, 
a fairly competent workman, but irregular in his habits. 
A sturdily made, bluff, breezy chap, fond of his beer and 
jolly company, and with something of originality in his 
composition, Morris liked him for a time and forgave 
him a thousand faults. There was a rough humour and 
wit in him, and a sort of perverse ingenuity of ideas, and 
bold aptness of phrase which made his talk and his public 
speaking attractive to the crowd. He was a rebel by 
temperament rather than Anarchist by philosophy. He 
was out for the social revolution rather than for Socialism, 
Communism or Anarchism. What precisely his idea of 
the social revolution was he never perhaps made quite 
clear. 

In the pages of To-Day Bernard Shaw, who, like Morris, 
was attracted by Kitz's unconventional characteristics, 
devoted two amusing articles to a good-humoured sally on 
Kitz's revolutionary bluster. 

David Nicol was yet another type. Possessed of a good 
education, and originally of some moderate means, he was 
drawn into the movement by his idealist tendencies. He 
had some literary gift, and one or two of his songs, such as the 
' Workers' Marseillaise ' and ' The Coming of the Light,' 



LAST DAYS OF THE LEAGUE 129 

have a glow of poetic fire in them. Kindly and gentle 
by nature, there was a strain of weakness in him mentally. 
He steeped his mind in clandestine literature, especially 
that dealing with the homicidal details of Government 
oppression and popular revolt, and became obsessed with 
the notion of arousing an insurrectionary working-class 
struggle in this country. 

It was mainly into the hands of these three men, together 
with Charles Mowbray, whose whole Socialist career fell 
afterwards into disrepute as one who was at least the tool 
of police agents, that the control of the Common-weal and 
the League passed, when Morris and the Hammersmith 
branch broke off from the League. The result was 
inevitable. 

There were still, it is true, a few members of the 
Anarchist-Communist type who gave no countenance to 
these eccentricities, but their example and reproof were 
alike disregarded. Morris showed all along, as we have 
seen, astonishing forbearance to his erring comrades. 
Even when they succeeded in capturing, as they did at 
the Annual Conference in 1889, the Council of the League, 
and he resigned from it and from the editorship of the 
Commonweal, he continued for many months to meet 
the deficit in the treasury to the tune of several hundred 
pounds. Eventually, however, the position became unen- 
durable, and he cut off all supplies. Before doing so he 
discharged the debt of the paper and the League, leaving 
his comrades with not a penny of past debt to burden them. 
The League and the Commonweal between them exacted 
a tribute from him in donations and debt payments of at 
least 500 a year. 

The after-history of the League is briefly told. The 
majority of the provincial branches, disagreeing with the 
Anarchist policy, ceased to send affiliation fees. The 
Commonweal became a monthly instead of a weekly 
pucatbliion, and an avowed organ of Anarchism. Police 
spies and agents provocateurs played their accustomed part. 



i 3 o WILLIAM MORRIS 

Nicol, the editor of the Commonweal, got imprisoned 
for a seditious article, and later came the Walsall Anarchist 
Plot, which led to Fred Charles, Joe Deakin, and two 
others getting long terms of penal servitude. The chief 
instrument of this plot was Coulon, a spy in the pay of the 
French Government. 

To this strangely inglorious and tragic end came the 
Socialist League, founded and inspired by the teaching, 
and made glorious by the genius of one of the most gifted 
of the sons of men. 






CHAPTER XIV 

LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 

MY visits to Morris at Hammersmith had incidentally an 
interesting result in my own family circle. Among the more 
active members of the Hammersmith branch was Sam Bullock, 
the lecture secretary, between whom and myself grew up 
a close friendship. Bullock's business as a consulting 
engineer caused him to make frequent journeys to Scotland, 
in the course of which he usually visited me in Glasgow. 
This led eventually to his engagement and marriage to 
my sister Kitty in 1893, whose home henceforth was at 
Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith. Sam Bullock and my 
sister were often guests at Morris' Sunday evening 
supper parties. Sam had a humorous vein which Morris 
relished. 

Meanwhile my own marriage, which took place at the 
same period, led to an abrupt change in the way of my life. 
My wife being as myself, we resolved to devote ourselves 
wholly to the work of the movement, setting forth together 
on our lifelong twain career as itinerant Socialist agitators. 
Our lecturing engagements henceforth led us both to make 
frequent visits to London, where my sister's home at Ham- 
mersmith became our headquarters. Thus a double link 
of attachment was now formed between the Hammersmith 
Socialist Society and myself. 

Our first visit to Hammersmith after our marriage 
was during our honeymoon early in July 1893, when I 
introduced my wife to Morris, and received his benediction. 



i 3 2 WILLIAM MORRIS 

We were both booked to lecture at Kelmscott House, 
myself on the first Sunday of our visit, and my wife on the 
following Sunday. Though it was midsummer, and indoor 
meetings were hardly inviting, there was a crowded audience 
to hear my wife speak for the first time in the famous little 
hall. Morris himself postponed his going away to his 
country house at Kelmscott expressly to preside at the 
meeting, and made some warm-hearted remarks when 
introducing her to the gathering, congratulating both the 
movement and ourselves on our ' apostolic wedding.' 

A rather droll incident occurred during the lecture. 
Among those seated with Morris on the platform was the 
venerable E. T. Craig, famous as one of the pioneers of 
the Co-operative Movement, and as the founder of the 
remarkable Ralahine Co-operative Colony in Ireland, which 
after a few years of extraordinary success came to grief 
owing to the bankruptcy and ruin of the proprietor of the 
land. 

Mr. Craig was now over ninety years of age, and though 
frail in body was extraordinarily alert in mind, and full 
of enthusiasm for the new Socialist movement. His queer 
little cramped-up figure as he sat on the platform with a 
grey Scottish shepherd's plaid round his shoulders, contrasted 
drolly with the burly form of Morris, who, despite several 
warning turns of illness, still looked in the height of health 
and energy. 

Unfortunately, Craig was exceedingly deaf, and had 
to make use of a huge ear-trumpet. The better to hear 
my wife he planted his chair close by her on the right, and 
held the unwieldy-looking instrument almost up to her 
face when she was speaking, much to her embarrassment. 
My wife, who has always claimed for herself considerable 
freedom of action on the platform, was obliged therefore 
severely to restrain her customary gestures, as no one present 
could fail to observe. Imagine, therefore, the amusement 
of the meeting when at the conclusion of her address, the 
quaint old veteran sprang to his feet and while compli- 



LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 133 

menting the lecturer most gallantly on her address, expressed 
his great disappointment that she had not put * more vigorous 
action into it.' ' I always like,' exclaimed he, ' to see orators, 
especially when they are young and full of life like our 
lecturer, throw their arms well about,' and in order to 
illustrate his idea, he swung his own arm, brandishing the 
ear-trumpet in a great sweep round him, so that both my 
wife and Morris had to throw themselves hastily back to 
avoid being struck by the weapon. 

The subject of my wife's lecture was * The Dearth of 
Joy,' and though I knew the lecture was one which Morris 
was likely to approve, I had a moment's misgiving over 
one of the passages in it. In the course of her remarks 
she alluded to certain signs of a growing moral and intel- 
lectual enfeeblement in literature and art, and instanced in 
contrast with the sorrows of the workers the exaggeration 
of merely aesthetic griefs and pains on the part of some of 
our modern poets and artists, mentioning Rossetti as an 
example. This allusion was not, I knew, prompted in 
any way by the circumstances of the meeting, as I had heard 
her make the same reference when delivering the lecture 
elsewhere. Knowing, however, as I did, Morris' sensi- 
tiveness about anything that seemed in the nature of dis- 
paragement of the Pre-Raphaelites, and remembering the 
consequences of an unfortunate remark of my own about 
Burne-Jones, of which I have spoken in a previous chapter, 
I felt a bit concerned lest Morris should take umbrage at 
her stricture on Rossetti. 

My apprehension, however, proved a false alarm. So 
far from dissenting from her observation, Morris in his 
few concluding remarks expressed his entire accordance 
with her. * I quite agree with the lecturer,' he said. * We 
have surely enough very real and very terrible woes in modern 
life to evoke our sympathy and lamentation, without make- 
believing any fanciful ones. Those I am sure who have 
themselves experienced, or who have any knowledge what- 
ever of such suffering as that endured by the poor miners 



134 WILLIAM MORRIS 

and their families during the recent lock-out, and who 
know what it is to see " little ones cry for bread " when 
bread for them there is none, are not likely to have much 
patience with poets who moan and melodise about their 
broken hearts (which, of course, are never broken) and 
the imaginary slights of their sweethearts or mistresses, 
especially when, as in so many instances, the sweethearts 
and mistresses are as fanciful creatures as the supposed 
heart-breaks.' 

After the meeting Morris took us to supper the com- 
pany including my sister and brother-in-law, Sam Bullock, 
Philip Webb, Andreas Scheu, and several others. Morris 
(I may be pardoned the vanity of noting) was most attentive 
towards my wife, talking with her about her college and 
propaganda experiences. Recollecting that the decorations 
and furnishings of her college (Newnham) had been the 
work of the Morris Company, he inquired about their 
state of preservation, and was pleased to hear that they 
had proved durable and were appreciated by the students. 
He was greatly interested when he discovered that she had 
been brought up at Walthamstow, where he himself had 
been born, and inquired about some of the folk he remem- 
bered there, particularly a vehement old character, Farmer 
Hitchman. 

Next day we came round at his request to see him for 
an hour in his study, when he showed my wife some of his 
literary treasures, and gave us as a wedding token a copy 
of one of his Kelmscott Press books in vellum, inscribed 
with our names. 



Morris was now entering upon the closing period of 
his life, of which only three years were yet to run. His 
career as an active worker in the Socialist movement was 
already virtually over. He had but recently given no little 
time and much earnest thought to the project of trying 
by means of a joint Socialist Committee to bring about 



LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 135 

formal unity between the different sections of the move- 
ment. This Committee, which comprised delegates from 
the S.D.F., the Fabian Society, and the Hammersmith 
Socialist Society, and included, among others, Hyndman, 
Quelch, Shaw, Webb, Walter Crane, and Morris, after 
weeks of discussion drew up a united Socialist manifesto ; 
but no practical result, however, came of it. Morris was 
greatly disappointed over the business. Though he never 
had much hopes of, or indeed belief in, what was termed 
* Socialist Unity,' this further experience of factional pre- 
judice and fruitless effort in connection with the mere 
mechanism of Socialist organisation, following upon the 
break-up of the League, was very discouraging to him. 
It closed up the only prospect then visible to him of forming 
a great Socialist Party with broad but definite and inspiring 
Socialist aims. True there was the new political Labour 
movement in which Socialists and Trade Unionists were 
combined, of which the recently formed Independent Labour 
Party (the I.L.P.) was the chief expression but this move- 
ment, operating, as it did, mainly in the North, hardly came 
within his view in London. He was not in touch with 
its leaders, nor did he quite understand its Socialist position. 
His friends of the Social Democratic Federation had no 
good word to say of it, and his Fabian friends were hardly 
more sympathetic in their attitude towards it. What 
appeared to be its intensely electioneering character repelled 
him, though later on he came to form a more favourable 
and just opinion of its principles and objects. 

Thus he felt isolated from the general throng of Socialist 
factions and forced back into his own idealist world, 
his still almost undiminished creative energies finding scope 
during this period of declining bodily vigour in his new 
printing schemes for the Kelmscott Press and in the writing 
of his splendid prose romances. To the last, however, he 
preserved his connection with the Hammersmith Socialist 
Society, keeping unbroken his comradeship with his old 
friends, and occasionally, as far as the state of his health 



136 WILLIAM MORRIS 

would allow, lecturing at Hammersmith and elsewhere in 
London and in provincial towns. 

***** * 

One of his last links with the active propaganda of the 
movement was formed by the publication of the Hammer- 
smith Socialist Record, a little monthly magazine, or rather 
tract, issued by the Hammersmith Socialist Society. The 
Record was begun shortly after Morris and the Society 
ceased their connection with the League and the Common- 
weal, as a means of voicing the distinctive Socialist 
views of the Society; and its trim little pages continued 
to receive articles and notes from his pen till its expiry 
in 1 895. It was, I should think, entitled to the distinction 
of being the smallest and most homely Socialist publication 
in the country. Morris and myself were, as the editor, 
Sam Bullock, drolly put it, the ' chief contributors ' and 
sometimes the only ones, and it is pleasant to me to think 
that I was privileged by means of this little publication 
to collaborate with Morris in the forlorn journalism of 
Socialist propaganda, even ' unto this last.' 

***** * 

The last occasion on which I met Morris was in August 
1895, about a year before his death. My wife and I were 
on a visit to my sister and brother-in law at Hammersmith. 
We all four attended the Sunday evening meeting at Kelms- 
cott House Herbert Burrows being the lecturer on that 
occasion and had a merry supper afterwards. Morris 
asked me to come round next morning for a chat, inviting 
my wife to join us later for lunch. 

Morris had then but recently recovered from the most 
serious illness of his life, and was noticeably weak and out 
of trim. He only briefly alluded to his illness, however, 
and that, as I thought, in a spirit of humbleness. He 
wanted, he said, to talk to me about the movement, especially 
in the North. Did I think it was making progress ? What 
did I think about the I.L.P. ? Was it aiming genuinely 



LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 137 

for Socialism ? I answered his questions reassuringly, 
explaining how that my wife and I were now putting our 
whole energy into the new party, the I.L.P., and frankly 
avowing that I had abandoned my old Socialist League 
opinions against parliamentary action. He listened to my 
apologia attentively, sitting back in his chair smoking, 
keeping his eyes fixed on me reflectively while I spoke. 
He told me, what doubtless, he said, I had gathered from 
his more recent letters to me, that he himself had now realised 
that revolutionary Socialism was impossible in England 
the working class were too deeply attached by temperament 
as well as by tradition to compromise and progressive politics 
to pursue with any genuine zeal abstract principles or 
revolutionary methods of change. Perhaps they were 
wiser than we were, even if their wisdom was only what 
Grant Allen called * animal instinct.' Animal instinct 
was quite as likely to be right as armchair philosophy. 
Anyway they knew their own capacities better than we 
did. He had, he said, resumed friendly relations with the 
leaders of the S.D.F., but he still disliked much of their 
spirit and many of their political methods. He asked me 
about' Keir Hardie, and was manifestly pleased to hear me 
speak warmly and trustfully of him. ' I have had, I confess, 
rather my doubts about him,' he said, * because of his seeming 
absorption in mere electioneering schemes, but his fight for 
the unemployed has had something great in it.' 

He spoke also of Robert Blatchford, whose extra- 
ordinary popularity as a journalist and as the author 
of * Merrie England * and editor of The Clarion was 
then uprising. He had heard, he said, a good deal about 
the remarkable influence of Blatchford's writings among 
the factory workers in the North. That, he thought, was 
a most encouraging sign, for he seemed to have a true grip 
of Socialism, and appeared to possess the faculty of under- 
standing the mind of the working class and of being 
understood by them. He (Blatchford) had been to see him 
at Kelmscott House, and they had had an interesting talk 



138 WILLIAM MORRIS 

together, though Blatchford seemed rather a taciturn man. 
' He is a queerish, black-looking chap,' Morris remarked. 
' But I'm not sure he came quite out of his shell.' 

He inquired about what our old League comrades in 
Scotland were doing, the Rev. Dr. Glasse, John Gilray, 
and others in Edinburgh, Webster, Leatham in Aberdeen, 
and Muirhead, Joe Burgoyne, Sandy Haddow, Dr. Stirling 
Robertson, and others in Glasgow. I was struck with 
the distinctness which these far-away and but seldom seen 
comrades had in his mind. 

He showed me, I remember, a letter in MS. he had 
written to the Athen&um or Academy (I forget on what 
subject), and I had no little delight in pointing out the 
word * paralel ' and several similar misspellings in it, as 
he had reprimanded me for my own misspelling on a 
recent occasion. ' Oh,' he said, * I don't profess to spell 
correctly spell, that is to say, according to rule. Spelling 
and grammar were made for man, not man for spelling 
and grammar.' 

On my wife joining us he brought in cider and cakes, 
as we both had to go into the City early, and could not 
' wait for lunch. He displayed a number of new designs for 
the Kelmscott Press, saying he was greatly pleased with 
them, and speaking, as always, with affectionate admiration 
of his collaborator, Burne-Jones. I asked if Burne-Jones 
was getting at all inclined towards Socialism. He shrugged 
his shoulders. * The Trafalgar Square riots terrified him 
against Socialism at the outset/ he said. * If only we 
could guarantee that the Social Revolution would not 
burn down the National Gallery he might almost be per- 
suaded to join us, I think. But who is going to guarantee 
what the people, or, for that matter, the soldiers, will do or 
will not do, should ever the flames of revolution burst forth ? ' 

As we arose to go I alluded to an article by him which 
had appeared with his photograph in the January number 
of the Labour Prophet the organ of the new Labour 
Church movement. I said that some of his old friends 



LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 139 

were surprised to see him writing in what they regarded as 
a religious publication, and hoped he was not becoming 
evangelical ! He explained that he had been urged to 
write something about Socialism for that journal because 
the Labour Church movement reached many earnest- 
minded people who were averse from the anti-religious tone 
of so much of our Socialist literature. He did not know 
what the theological views of the Labour Church were, 
but he understood that the idea was to push Socialism on 
religious lines, and he thought that was useful and in sympathy 
with many kindly folks' difficulties. Anti-religious bigotry 
was twin brother to religious bigotry, and the Socialist 
movement had suffered from it. He meant the article 
to be a frank reconsideration of his anti-parliamentary 
attitude, and hoped he had made his position in that respect 
quite clear. 

In my diary notes written at the time, I find against this 
date (August 26, 1895) simply the laconic word ' Good-bye,' 
though I had no thought at the time that it might prove 
our last meeting. But I remember that at the gate he held 
my hand longer than was his custom, and said ' I have been 
greatly cheered by what you say about Keir Hardie and 
the Labour movement. Our theories often blind us to 
the truth.' Then, laying his hand on my shoulder, he said 
' Ah, lad ! if the workers are really going to march won't 
we all fall in ! Again, good-bye, and good luck.' 

These were, I think, the last words I ever heard from 
his lips. 

A few months later I stayed for a few days with my sister 
at Hammersmith, but knowing that he was exceedingly ill, 
and that it had been made known that he was unable to 
see any visitors, I did not call at Kelmscott House, greatly 
as I longed to do so. Yet I could not leave Hammersmith 
without getting as near to him as I could. So one day I 
went round to the Mall, and sat for an hour under the 
elm tree on the bastion overlooking the river in front of 
the house. Prayer was not a means of expressing emotion 



i 4 o WILLIAM MORRIS 

with me in those days, yet as I thought of William Morris 
lying ill somewhere within that house, a flood of suppli- 
cation that he might not be in pain, and might get well 
again, filled my heart. I looked at the library window, 
and could just catch a glance of the book-shelves. How 
sacred that room was ! What priceless treasures were there ! 
What wonderful memories were enshrined in it of him 
and of his superb comradeship ! I looked out on the river 
and recalled his description of the scene in * News from 
Nowhere,' and I recalled also how when he was writing 
that book I told him that I had fallen in love with Ellen, 
and he said he had fallen in love with her himself ! ' Oh, 
and I shan't give her up to you not without a tussle for 
her anyway,' he said, with a smile, but almost jealously, 
I thought. I found it hard to come away, not daring 
even to knock at the door, lest it might seem as if I wished 
to intrude on his seclusion. 

He recovered from this attack of illness, but his frame 
was completely shaken by it, and he was never well again. 

On Sunday, August 9, 1896, I again, and for the last 
time, lectured at Kelmscott House. Morris was then 
away by his doctor's advice on a cruise to Spitzbergen with 
his friend John Carruthers, in the forlorn hope of regaining 
his health, and there was a subdued and inert air about 
the place. My lecture raised a brisk discussion in the 
meeting, but the debaters were mostly young men, new- 
comers into the movement. Robert Blatchford and 
E. F. Fay (the * Bounder ' of The Clarion), with whom 
I was at that time intimately associated, came with me to 
the meeting, and Blatchford said a few words, but none 
of the old warriors unsheathed their blades. Already the 
old Kelmscott regime seemed passing away. After the 
meeting, instead of our having supper in the house, we had 
supper at my sister's, and made merry till the morning hours ; 
but the thought that he * My Captain, O My Captain ' 
was fading away, haunted my mirth. He returned from 
his cruise in no wise benefited by it 



LAST DAYS WITH MORRIS 141 

Two months later, on Saturday, October 3, 1896, 
William Morris died. I read the news in the Umpire 
next day in Bury, where I was lecturing a dreary wet day 
in a dismal town. I spent next day in J. R. dynes' house 
in Oldham, writing a memorial notice of him for the Labour 
Leader, my pages stained with many a tear. The sun 
of my Socialist firmament had gone out. It seemed as 
though the colour and music had gone out of my life also. 
I felt bereft and forlorn. For ten years his friendship over 
my * living head, like heaven was bent.' 

To me he was the greatest man in the world. 

In my diary for October 4, I find it noted : * Socialism 
seems all quite suddenly to have gone from its summer into 
its winter time. William Morris and Kelmscott House 
no more ! ' 



CHAPTER XV 

HIS SOCIALISM : FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 

IN an earlier chapter I recalled how Morris, when he first 
met us in Gla gow, had flatly declared his indifference to 
Marx's theory of value, or any other dogmas of political 
economy. Yet in an interview published a year or two 
later in Cassetfs Saturday Magazine, Morris was reported 
to have said that he had been led towards Socialism by 
Ruskin's teaching and his own artistic feeling, but that it 
was the reading of Marx's * Capital ' that had finally made 
him a convinced Socialist. This statement rather surprised 
me, and on visiting him shortly afterwards in London I re- 
ferred to the article, and asked him if it was true that Marx 
had influenced in an important way his Socialist ideas. 

' I don't think the Cossets Magazine chap quite put 
it as I gave it him,' Morris replied ; ' but it is quite true 
that I put some emphasis on Marx more than I ought to 
have done, perhaps. The fact is that I have often tried 
to read the old German Israelite, but have never been able 
to make head or tail of his algebraics. He is stiffer reading 
than some of Browning's poetry. But you see most people 
think I am a Socialist because I am a crazy sort of artist 
and poet chap, and I mentioned Marx because I wanted 
to be upsides with them and make believe that I am really 
a tremendous Political Economist which, thank God, I 
am not ! I don't think I ever read a book on Political 
Economy in my life barring, if you choose to call it such, 
Ruskin's " Unto This Last " and I'll take precious good 
care I never will ! ' 

142 



FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 143 

This strong disclaimer, though it smacks of that droll 
exaggeration in which Morris in a whimsical way sometimes 
indulged, expresses nevertheless the essential truth respect- 
ing his Socialist persuasion. Morris was a Socialist by 
reason of his whole intellectual and moral construction, and 
whatever circumstances eventually led him to realise and 
to proclaim himself a Socialist and there were doubtless 
many his Socialism was none the less a necessary expression 
of his whole nature. 

His Socialism was of the Communist type, and he him- 
self belonged to the old Utopian school rather than to the 
modern Scientific Socialist school of thought. It is true 
that occasionally he used distinctively Marxist phrases in 
his lectures, and so gave the impression that he accepted 
in the main the Scientific Socialist position. This was 
notably the case in that most unsatisfactory series of chapters, 
* Socialism, from the Root Up,' which he wrote for the 
Commonweal in 1886-88 jointly with Belfort Bax, or 
rather, which, as he himself said, Bax wrote and he said 
ditto to. They were afterwards republished in book-form 
under the title, * Socialism : its Growth and Outcome.' 
But no one who knew him personally, or was familiar with 
the general body of his writings, could fail to perceive that 
these Marxist ideas did not really belong to his own sphere 
of Socialist thought, but were adopted by him because of 
their almost universal acceptance by his fellow Socialists, 
and because he did not feel disposed to bother about doctrines 
which, whether true or false, hardly interested him. One 
perceives, especially in the case of ' Socialism, from the Root 
Up,' that dogmatism about the evolution of the family or 
the logical sequence of economic changes does not come 
within the range of Morris' line of Socialist vision. This 
he as good as acknowledged once when he said, alluding 
playfully to Bax's visits while they were writing the book 
together, * I am going to undergo compulsory Baxination 
again to-day.' 

His general conception of Socialism was formed in his 



i 4 4 WILLIAM MORRIS 

mind before he came into touch with the Socialist move- 
ment, or with Socialists at all. In his Art lectures, 
delivered as early as 1878, we find passages in which 
the essentials of his after- teaching of Socialism are clearly 
set forth. 

In saying that Morris' Socialism was Utopian rather than 
Scientific, I mean that his Socialism was not derived from 
any logical inferences from economic analyses of industrial 
history, but from his whole conception of life. He did not 
concern himself so much with the science of wealth, or 
rather money-'hiaking, as with the art of living. While 
ordaining absolute equality of wealth conditions for all as 
essential to the realisation of the Co-operative Common- 
wealth, he regarded all readjustments of economic con- 
ditions as a means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. 
The great object of Socialism was to place all men and women 
on a footing of equality and brotherhood in order that they 
might one and all have the utmost possible freedom to live 
the fullest and happiest lives. The selfish striving for 
gain, the fettering of one's fellow-men in order to benefit 
by their oppression or misfortune, the ambition for personal 
superiority or privilege of any kind, were motives wholly 
abhorrent to his nature. 

He did not regard mere quantity of riches or wealth 
as being important objects of Socialism. Though in no 
degree favouring asceticism or parsimony of living, he 
nevertheless believed that in the main the greater the 
simplicity of our mode of living, the greater would be the 
happiness and the nobler the achievements of our lives. 
This idea is expressed in all his descriptions of what he 
pictured as ideal conditions of fellowship and work as, 
for example, in his song ' The Day is Coming,' in his lectures 
on * Useful Work versus Useless Toil,' and ' How we live, 
and how we might live,' and in his 'John Ball ' and * News 
from Nowhere.' 

So much indeed was he out of sympathy with all mere 
stuffing of life with furniture, so to speak, with all elabora- 



FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 145 

tion of devices for cramming life with luxuries and ex- 
citements, that he avowed with the utmost sincerity his 
preference for the humblest sort of cottage life to that of the 
millionaire splendour of Park Lane or of the most desirable 
mansions of Villadom. Referring to his visit, in 1884, to 
Edward Carpenter's little farm at Millthorpe, he wrote : 
' I went to Chesterfield and saw Edward Carpenter on 
Monday, and found him sensible and sympathetic at the 
same time. I listened with longing heart to his account of 
his patch of ground, seven acres : He says that he and his 
fellow can almost live on it : they grow their own wheat 
and send flowers and fruit to Chesterfield and Sheffield 
markets : all sounds very agreeable to me. It seems to 
me that a very real way to enjoy life is to accept all its 
necessary ordinary details and turn them into pleasures by 
taking interest in them : whereas modern civilisation 
huddles them out of the way, has them done in a venal and 
slovenly manner till they become real drudgery which 
people can't help trying to avoid. Whiles I think, as a vision, 
of a decent community as a refuge from our mean squabbles 
and corrupt society ; but I am too old now, even if it were 
not dastardly to desert.' 

Nor was his repulsion from luxury, extravagance, and 
superfluity of material wealth, and his longing for down- 
rightly simple and even arduous conditions of life a merely 
occasional or passing frame of mind. Again and again in 
his discourses on Art and Labour does he affirm his belief 
that the farther we go from the cottage and the nearer 
to the palace, the farther we banish ourselves from the 
sweetest and noblest joys of life. ' Art was not born in 
the palace, rather she fell sick there,' he said in one of his 
earliest addresses, and unceasingly in his Art lectures he 
appealed against the whole plutocratic conception of life. 
Here are a few sentences culled at random from his lectures 
in which he puts his plea for simplicity of life into almost 
axiomatic phrase : 

' That which alone can produce popular art among 



146 WILLIAM MORRIS 

us is living a simple life. Once more I say that the great 
foe of art (and life) is luxury.' 

* Have nothing in your house that you do not know to 
be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' 

* Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, 
but the very foundation of refinement. A sanded floor 
and white-washed walls, and the green trees and flowering 
meads and living waters outside ; or a grimy palace amid 
the smoke with a regiment of housemaids always working 
to smear dirt together so that it may be unnoticed ; which, 
think you, is the most refined and the most fit for a gentleman 
of those two dwellings ? ' 

' There are two virtues much needed in modern life 
if it is ever to become sweet, and I am quite sure they are 
absolutely necessary in sowing the seed of an art which is 
to be made by the people, as a happiness to the maker and user, 
These are honesty and simplicity of life.' (' The Art of 
the People.') 

' I have never been in a rich man's house which would 
not have looked better for having a bonfire made outside 
of it of nine-tenths of all it held.' (Ibid.) 

* Luxury cannot exist without slavery of some kind 
or other, and its abolition would be blessed, like the abolition 
of other slaveries, by the freeing of both the slaves and their 
masters.' (Ibid.) 

Perhaps the most distinctive as well as the most prophetic 
part of his teaching was his exaltation of work. No other 
writer, ancient or modern, that I know of, has so glorified 
work for its own sake. If ever man can be said to have 
believed in work as the greatest human pleasure and as 
the highest form of worship, it was he. In this respect his 
teaching stands out almost as uniquely from the teaching 
in prevalent Socialist literature as from that of literature 
generally. Both Carlyle and Ruskin had, it is true, pro- 
claimed the nobility of work ; but there was in their axioms 
a preceptorial and disciplinary note. Work with them has 
still something of the Old Testament penitential curse upon 



FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 147 

it. With Morris there is no such detraction. Ever and 
ever again he dwells upon the idea that work is the greatest 
boon of life, not simply because work is necessary for the 
sustenance of life what is necessary may yet be painful 
and irksome but because it is in itself a good and joyous 
thing ; because it is the chief means whereby man can 
express his creative powers, and give to his fellows the gifts 
of his affection and diligence. 

Underneath much of the prevalent teaching of Socialism, 
especially that of Marxist propagandists, as in the teaching 
of the Book of Genesis, there lurks the notion that work 
is from its very nature an oppressive and hateful obligation, 
to be borne at least as a burden, as a price to be paid for the 
privilege of life. One feels when reading many of the leading 
expositions of Socialism that we should want, were such a 
thing possible, to free the workers not only from the present 
conditions of work, but from work altogether. In other 
words, there clings to Socialist teaching the idea the 
Capitalist idea, it might be called that work is in its nature 
a servitude and oppression, and that the ideal of complete 
social emancipation would be that we should all be able to 
live without work live, that is to say, as * ladies and 
gentlemen ' without having to do any work at all ! 

So far from regarding work in that light, so far from 
looking upon work as being in itself an evil, an undesirable 
or penitential task, Morris held work to be the highest, the 
most God-like of all human capacities. Without work 
life would cease to have any meaning or yield any noble 
happiness at all. Hear him : 

' The hope of pleasure in work itself : how strange 
that hope must seem to some of my readers to most of 
them ! Yet I think to all living things there is a pleasure 
in the exercise of their energies and that even the beasts 
rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong. But a man at 
work, making something which he feels will exist because 
he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies 
of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and 



i 4 8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

imagination help him as he works. Not only his own 
thoughts, but the thoughts of past ages guide his hand, and 
as part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we 
shall be men, and our days in the world will be happy and 
eventful.' 

And again, writing in the Commonweal on Bellamy's 
* Looking Backward,' he says : * Mr. Bellamy worries 
himself unnecessarily in seeking, with obvious failure, some 
incentive to labour to replace the fear of starvation which 
at present is the only one ; whereas it cannot be too often 
repeated that the true incentive to useful and happy labour 
is, and must be, pleasure in the work itself.' 

That single sentence, as Mr. Mackail rightly observes, 
contains the essence of all his belief in politics, in economics, 
in art. I doubt if he ever delivered a lecture without re- 
affirming it as a cardinal principle of his Socialist faith. It 
might indeed be said that it was from his perception of the 
direful blight which the degradation of labour has upon the 
whole tree of life, and his abounding hope in the regenera- 
tion of life, which the uplifting of labour to its true dignity 
and delight would bring, that all his Socialist aspirations 
sprang. Thus in 1879, several years before he saw his way 
into the path of Socialist agitation, we find him declaring 
in an address on ' The Art of the People ' to the Birming- 
ham Art students : * If a man has work to do which he 
despises, which does not satisfy his natural and rightful 
desire for pleasure, the greater part of his life must pass 
unhappily and without self-respect. Consider, I beg of 
you, what that means, and what ruin must come of it in 
the end. . . . The chief duty of the civilised world to-day 
is to set about making labour happy for all, and to do its 
utmost to minimise unhappy labour.' 

We also find him in what was almost his last Socialist 
testament, * News from Nowhere,' giving final emphasis to 
this principle. My readers will know how in that Utopian 
romance he makes old Hammond reply to his visitor from 
the nineteenth century, who expresses astonishment that 



FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 149 

the people in the new epoch of Rest work without special 
reward for their labour : 

' No reward of labour ! ' exclaimed Hammond. * The 
reward of labour is life. Is that not enough ? The reward 
of creation. The wages which God gets, as people might 
have said long time agone. If you are going to be paid for 
the pleasure of creation, which is what excellence in work 
means, the next thing we shall hear of will be a bill sent for 
the creation of children.' 

But the visitor objects that in the nineteenth century 
it would have been said that there is a natural desire towards 
the procreation of children, and a natural desire not to work. 
Whereupon Hammond scouts that as an ancient platitude, 
and wholly untrue, and explains that in the Communist 
Commonwealth * all work is now made pleasurable either 
because of the hope of gain in honour and wealth with which 
the work is done, which causes pleasurable excitement, 
even when the work is not pleasant ; or else because it 
has grown into a pleasurable habit, as is the case with what 
you call mechanical work ; and lastly (and most of the work 
is of this kind) because there is a conscious sensuous pleasure 
in work itself ; it is done, that is, by artists.' 

And this exaltation of work from being, as in the old 
world, a servitude and an irksome toil, into a pleasurable 
creation and art, Morris speaks of as being a far greater and 
more important change than all the other changes con- 
cerning crime, politics, property, and marriage which 
Socialism will achieve. 

He was not, as is commonly thought, opposed to the 
use of machinery or labour-saving inventions. On the 
contrary, he strongly urged that all merely laborious and 
monotonous work should, as far as possible, be done by 
machinery. 1 He even denied that machinery was neces- 
sarily distasteful from an Art point of view. ' It is,' he said, 

1 See particularly his lectures on ' How we live, and how we 
might live ' and ' Useful Work versus Useless Toil ' in his Signs of 
Change. 



150 WILLIAM MORRIS 

4 the allowing machines to be our masters and not our 
servants that so injures the beauty of life nowadays.' But 
he did not in the least rejoice at the prospect of supplanting 
generally the energies of the mind and the skill of the hands 
by universal ingenuities of mechanism. That way led, 
he felt, to the eventual decay, not only of our physical 
faculties, but of our imagination and our moral powers. 
For this reason the conception of Socialism and life given 
in Bellamy's * Looking Backward ' filled him with horror. 
He was not blind to the many merits of that book the 
admirable desire to solve practical problems of wealth dis- 
tribution, and the wonderful fertility of its suggestions for 
ensuring social justice and equality all round. But he 
simply could not abide the notion that the object of Socialism 
was not only to get rid of the present inequalities of work 
and reward, but to get rid as far as possible of any occasion 
for work and exertion altogether, and thereby to reduce life 
so far as possible to a passive experience of sensory and 
intellectual excitement. 

It was in protest against Bellamy's * Looking Backward ' 
with its notion of making civilisation a mere emporium of 
artificial contrivances, and life a cram of sensuous experi- 
ences, that he wrote his * News from Nowhere.' He was 
greatly disturbed by the vogue of Bellamy's book. In one 
of his letters to me at the time he said ' I suppose you have 
seen or read, or at least tried to read, " Looking Backward." 
I had to on Saturday, having promised to lecture on it. 
Thank you, I wouldn't care to live in such a cockney 
paradise as he imagines ! ' and in an early issue of the 
Commonweal he wrote a formal criticism of the book. 

Sam Bullock tells me that he remembers calling, as 
lecture secretary of the Hammersmith Branch, on Morris 
one Saturday afternoon, to ask him to lecture in the Kelms- 
cott meeting- room on the Sunday evening in place of the 
appointed lecturer, who was unable to come. Morris 
objected that he had nothing new to lecture about, and had 
already spoken there on any subject upon which he could 



FELLOWSHIP AND WORK 151 

find anything to say. Bullock suggested that he might 
make a few comments on Bellamy's book which Morris 
told him he had just read. Morris brightened at the 
suggestion and on the Sunday evening gave a running 
commentary on the book, incidentally introducing by way 
of contrast some of his own ideas of how people might live 
and work in * a new day of fellowship, rest, and happiness.' 
Doubtless it was this lecture which gave him the idea of 
writing * News from Nowhere,' which immediately after- 
wards began to appear in weekly instalments in the 
Commonweal, and was intended as a counterblast to 
4 Looking Backward.' It was written for the most part 
in hurried snatches when travelling by train to and from 
the City. 

Morris never intended, however, ' News from Nowhere ' 
to be regarded as a serious plan or conspectus of Socialism, 
and was both surprised and amused when he found the little 
volume solemnly discussed as a text-book of Socialist 
politics, economics, and morality. The story was meant 
to be a sort of Socialist jeu cT esprit a fancy picture, or 
idyll, or romance. It is unlikely that Morris, while depre- 
cating the assumption in ' Looking Backward ' that we 
can forecast the regulations and details of a future society, 
would himself fall into that very error. 

Yet one meets with readers of * News from Nowhere ' 
who appear to be possessed with the idea that such whimsi- 
calities in the story as the conversion of the present buildings 
of the Houses of Parliament into a manure depot, the free 
provision of all manner of fancifully carved tobacco pipes, 
and the going about of road-dustmen in gorgeous medieval 
raiment, constitute prime factors in Morris' conception of 
the Socialist Commonwealth ! Nevertheless the book con- 
tains not only delightful descriptions of the beautiful stretches 
of the Thames Valley and charming delineations of men 
and women moving amidst most pleasant circumstances 
of life and industry, but pages of dialogue and reflection 
that reveal the richest thoughts of his mind and the 



i 5 2 WILLIAM MORRIS 

deepest feelings of his heart. Ellen, his hostess of the 
Guest House, ' her face and hands and bare feet tanned quite 
brown with the sun,' is surely one of the most exquisite 
creations in prose literature, and where else have we so 
vividly pictured the transience of modern civilisation and 
the permanence of the loveliness of England as in the 
description of the guest's journey together with Ellen in 
the boat up the Thames ? 



CHAPTER XVI 

CHARACTERISTICS : HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 

MORRIS was not what is called an orator or eloquent speaker. 
He was not reckoned among the front-rank speakers of 
the movement, though the high quality of the substance 
of his lectures, and the charm of his manner of speech, were 
generally recognised. In none of the biographical notices 
of him that I have seen is his platform speaking appraised 
among his chief accomplishments. His defect in oratory 
was not, needless to say, owing to any lack of intensity of 
feeling, or to any dearth of ideas, or command of language 
on his part. Nor can it be ascribed to the want of sufficient 
practice on the platform ; for he must have addressed many 
hundreds of meetings in the course of his public career. 

His lack of oratory belonged to the mould of his nature. 
This is easily discerned. His poetry no less than his prose 
writing showed that the absence in him of florid and emo- 
tional speech was a fundamental fact of his temperament and 
genius. Whether this characteristic is to be reckoned a 
merit or demerit in him is a matter of individual judgment. 
There are many who will consider it wholly to the good 
of his work and fame. For, as we all know, rhetoric and 
declamatory expression of all kinds have fallen nowadays 
into disrepute among almost all who pretend to art or literary 
culture. In this respect modern aesthetic feeling among 
the cultured classes is quite at variance with that of the 
ancient Greeks (as distinct from a few heretics like Plato), 
as it also is with modern popular taste. Rhetoric, or, at 



154 WILLIAM MORRIS 

any rate, platform oratory, as is witnessed by the fact of the 
great vogue of eloquent preachers, and the huge crowds 
that assemble to listen to famous political speakers, irrespective 
of creed or party, is apparently as attractive to our present- 
day * unsophisticated ' fellow citizens as it was alike to the 
cultured and to the uncultured populace of Periclean 
Athens. 

For myself, whom my readers may by now suspect of 
grudging any detraction whatever from Morris' excellences, 
I may as well make a clean breast of it, and confess that 
I am by no means persuaded that the gift of oratory or of 
eloquent and ornate writing is a spurious one, or is in any 
way allied to weakness of conviction or insincerity of mind. 
Fools and knaves are by no means always eloquent or even 
loquacious. Nor have I found and this with me is a test 
example that the more eloquent of our Socialist propa- 
gandists, or for that matter of politicians and preachers 
generally, are less reliable in thought, or in word, or in deed 
than their less eloquent brothers. Nor does history testify 
against the gift of t tongues.' Many of the noblest teachers 
and reformers, heroes and masters, were men and women 
of powerful and attractive eloquence. Pericles, St. Paul, 
St. Dominic, Savonarola, Luther, and notable publicists 
in recent days, such as Ernest Jones, John Bright, Wendell 
Phillips, Colonel Ingersoll, Charles Bradlaugh, Annie 
Besant, Spurgeon, Jean Jaures, all of them were remarkable 
orators ; and no one would, I think, say that they were 
insincere or unreliable in character or speech. And I 
confess further that for myself, not only good oratory on 
the platform but eloquence and occasionally sheer rhetoric 
in writing have much charm. I am among those who can 
take whole-hearted delight in some of the more rhetorical 
passages of poetry which can be found, for example, in 
Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, and Victor Hugo. I shall 
even avow that where, rarely though it be, Morris himself 
seems to verge on the borderline of rhetoric, as in some 
parts of his ' John Ball ' and his * Aims of Art,' and perhaps, 



HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 155 

too, in some of his Socialist chants, I feel he is attaining the 
very highest pitch of sincerity of expression. 

But having said that Morris was not an orator, and 
without judging this to be either a merit or a defect in him, 
I must hasten to say that his public speaking, to those who 
had ears to hear, was one of the finest things to listen to 
that could be heard on an English platform. It was so 
like what one expected of him, so characteristic of the man, 
so interesting in substance and manner, and withal so fresh, 
so natural and uneffortful, and full of personal flavour. 
It was as different from the customary platform oratory 
as a mountain spring is from a garden fountain. His speech 
did not come with a great rush and dazzling spray, bounding 
high above the natural level of common speech, but welled 
up easily and naturally, forming a fresh, translucent pool, 
and making its way, not as a sluice or channel, but tracking 
out its own course. It was conversational rather than 
oratorical, with breaks and pauses corresponding to the 
natural working of his thoughts. His voice, though not of 
deep compass, was distinctively male, fairly strong and flexible, 
but not loud or of great range ; not noticeably sonorous, but 
never shrill, and always most pleasant to hear. Occasionally 
he paused for the right word, or appeared to grope his way 
for a moment, but he never stumbled in his sentences, or 
got tangled or lost in his argument. He was characteristically 
inclined, except when reasoning closely or dealing with the 
gravest subjects, to break into a humorous vein, and to 
express himself with a whimsical gesture or frank expletive. 
He did not harangue his audiences, or preach, or teach them, 
but spoke to them as a man to his friends or neighbours 
and as one on their own level of intelligence and good- 
will. As I have said elsewhere, the English language had a 
new tune on his tongue, and when moved by deep feeling 
there was a cadence or chant in his voice that was sweet and 
good to hear. 

But these things do not fully explain the secret of the 
peculiar power and charm of Morris' platform speech. 



156 WILLIAM MORRIS 

If he was not an orator, he had something that was greater 
than oratory, though I find it hard to define what I mean 
by that saying. Perhaps the prime quality of his speaking 
was its veracity. I mean by that the quality of saying 
precisely no more and no less in words or in the emotion 
or colour imparted to the words than the speaker thinks, 
feels, or wishes to say. He expressed what was in his mind 
as exactly as words could do. Except occasionally in con- 
versation or private correspondence when in an expletive 
or whimsical mood, he never indulged in over-emphasis 
or hyperbole, as Carlyle and Ruskin so often did. His 
meaning was never overmastered by his words was never 
encumbered or cloyed by conventional phrase or literary 
jargon, or unduly heightened or barbed by metaphor or 
epigram. Yet on the other hand he unhesitatingly used 
the commonest idioms and tritest sayings when these ade- 
quately expressed what he wished to say. His integrity of 
utterance in this respect, both in writing and in speaking, 
was, considering the custom of exaggerated and over- 
emphasised expression in literature and public speech, truly 
remarkable. This temperance and probity of speech is 
one of the rarest qualities among educated and literary 
people. Only amongst the simpler-minded and stronger- 
natured type of the working class, especially among northern 
countryfolk, can it be found, and then far from commonly. 

There was yet another quality in Morris as a speaker 
or teacher which I may .perhaps touch upon here, though 
it belongs rather to the substance of his teaching than his 
manner of speech. From the first time I heard him lecture 
I was aware, though unable to say why, that there was some- 
thing in his attitude towards his hearers, something, too, in 
his vein of feeling towards the world in which we dwell, 
that was different from that customary with speakers in 
public address. What was it ? I tried to define it to 
myself, but was puzzled. 

On one occasion when he was addressing an open-air 
meeting at Glasgow Green gates, I was struck so forcibly 



HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 157 

with this characteristic, whatever it might be, that I fixed 
in my mind several passages that seemed to me to be 
particularly distinctive of the posture of his mind towards 
the audience. I give one or two of them as nearly word 
for word as I can remember : 

' I feel quite at home in addressing you here in Glasgow 
this afternoon. It is just such a meeting as this that I am 
accustomed to address when at home in London on Sundays. 
I find before me here just the same type of audience, mostly 
working men, looking by no means particularly happy and, 
if you will forgive my saying so, by no means particularly 
well-fed or well-clothed. And I feel that what I have to 
say to you this afternoon is just what I should feel compelled 
to say were I speaking instead at Hammersmith Bridge or 
in Hyde Park in London. 

' Coming along to the meeting this afternoon our 
comrade the secretary was telling me that there is a dis- 
tressing amount of unemployment in Glasgow, and that 
huge unemployed demonstrations have been held. That 
is just what is told me wherever I go to speak. And I 
never hear, or read, or think about it but my blood boils, 
and indignation rises in my heart, against the whole system 
of what is so proudly called " modern civilisation." 

' I can speak, perhaps, on this subject of work with less 
prejudice or personal bias than most men. I am neither 
what you would call a working man nor an idle rich man, 
though in a way I am a bit of both with, as some folk might 
say, the bad qualities of both and the good qualities of neither ! 
I am, as some of you know, a literary man and an artist of a 
kind. I work both with my head and my hands : but not 
from compulsion as most of you and my comrades here do, 
nor merely as a sort of rich man's pastime, as doubtless some 
of the Dukes do. I have never known what I fear many 
of you unfortunately have known, actual poverty the pain 
of to-day's hunger and cold, and the fear of to-morrow's, 
or the dread of a master's voice, or the hopeless despair of 
unemployment. I have, I truly believe, lived as happy a 



i 5 8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

life as anyone could wish to live, save for the misery of 
seeing so much cruel wrong and needless suffering around 
me. Yet I am no more entitled to that happiness than any 
of my fellows. 

* One of your university men was lamenting to me this 
morning that the working class in Scotland were more 
and more taking to cheap periodical literature and shoddy 
professional music-hall jingles, to the neglect of your beautiful 
vernacular Scottish songs and the works of Walter Scott and 
other good writers. And it is, don't you think, a lamentable 
thing that the literary taste of the people should, despite 
the fact of the spread of what is called Education, or perhaps 
largely in consequence of it, be turning away from one of 
the few wholesome and beautiful things of the past now 
left us, to the silly and trashy and mostly vile stuff written 
and published nowadays merely as a means of money- 
grabbing. 

' In England they have a beautiful custom in the churches 
of celebrating the gathering of the harvest by having a special 
thanksgiving service, on which occasion the churches are 
decorated with flowers, and the altar laden with all manner 
of fruits, grains, and vegetables. I suppose you have a 
similar custom in Scotland. The custom indeed seems to 
be observed in all parts of the world, by peoples of all races 
and all creeds. 

4 A friend and comrade of mine, a master engineer, 
who has carried out great engineering schemes in South 
America, tells me that in dealing with the natives there, 
it is much more important to treat or seem to treat them 
kindly humanly, that is to say than even to treat them 
justly. If, for example, when asked to do something 
help, say, in finding cattle, food, or material they are asked 
rather as friends than as inferiors, they will respond far more 
willingly, even if the task is an unduly hard one. So also, 
if when paying them for any work or purchases, miserable 
though the payment may be, if what is given them is given 
in a cheerful way, as though acknowledging a favour rather 



HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 159 

than conferring one, the natives will hardly think of count- 
ing what they receive or of disputing as to the amount 
due.' 

Such are a few snatches from his address on the occasion 
referred to. Readers of his art lectures and his political 
addresses will recall many passages attuned on a kindred 
personal note. There is, for example, the striking personal 
apologia in his lecture on ' Art and the Beauty of the Earth.' 

' Look you, as I sit at my work at home, which is at 
Hammersmith close to the river, I often hear go past the 
window some of the ruffianism of which a good deal has 
been said in the papers of late, and has been said before at 
recurring periods. As I hear the yells and shrieks and all 
the degradation cast on the glorious tongue of Shakespeare 
and Milton, and I see the brutal, reckless faces and figures 
go past me, it rouses in me recklessness and brutality also, 
and fierce wrath takes possession of me, till I remember, as 
I hope I mostly do, that it was my good luck only of being 
born respectable and rich that has put me on this side of the 
window amid delightful books and lovely works of art, 
and not on the other side in the empty street, the drink- 
steeped liquor shops, and the foul and degraded lodgings. 
What words can say what it all means ? ' 

What, I have asked myself, is there in those expressions 
that mark them in my mind as so distinctive of Morris ? 
I think I have found the answer. It is, I think, because 
of the absence in them of any air of oracularity, any aloofness 
of mind, or assumption of superior wisdom or virtue, any 
speaking down to his hearers as though they were on an 
inferior human or intellectual level. Always he had a 
disposition to allude to his own comrades in his remarks, 
to speak as one of them, and to make them and himself 
friends with the audience. In other words it is, I think, 
because they betoken in Morris an innate predisposition to 
regard himself as one of the general community, as part of 
the common fellowship of those around him, a fellow man, 
a fellow citizen, a fellow dweller on earth, not only with 



160 WILLIAM MORRIS 

those whom he is addressing, but with all people in the 
world. 

How rare that posture of mind is among writers, reformers, 
and public leaders, even those who are reckoned democratic ! 
Of the poets I can recollect none except Robert Burns 
(different in temperament as he was) who is at all akin to 
him in this respect. Shelley always seemed to belong to a 
different world from mankind generally. Ruskin and 
Carlyle both acclaimed the dignity of labour, and both spoke 
as men who recognised the indivisible unity of rich and poor, 
educated and uneducated. We are all of the one body 
in God's sight, so they said. Nevertheless, they both posed 
as men of higher spiritual calling, higher moral and intel- 
lectual perception, than the mass of their fellows. The 
public, the people, the democracy, were a rather shapeless, 
nebulous mass or herd down below somewhere. With 
Ruskin, the people are always * You ' , with Carlyle they are 
even farther away, they are * They ' ; but with Morris the 
people are always ' We? Ruskin and Carlyle are for ever 
scolding, are admonishing the public and mankind as * School- 
masters.' Morris always (except in explosive moments 
when he seemed kindled into a flame of Olympian or 
Jehovist wrath) spoke as a fellow-man and a fellow-sinner. 
Even when referring to the wrong-doings and stupidities 
of the public he almost invariably included himself as one 
equally guilty with the rest. Seldom, even in his most 
passionate protests as a Socialist against the evils of existing 
society, did he think of separating himself, or Socialists as a 
whole, from the full sweep of his expostulation. 

Therein, I say, we discern something of that remarkable 
quality in Morris which makes so unique and attractive, and, 
I think, so prophetic, his character as a man and his teaching 
as a Socialist. 

It is generally supposed that Morris' health was seriously 
impaired by his public speaking and agitation. Mr. 
Mackail, in his ' Life of Morris,' and other writers on Morris 
speak in this strain. A similar idea, as my readers know, 



HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 161 

prevails with respect to many other public men, even those 
who have lived, as so many public men do, to an advanced 
age. 

This idea that popular agitation, especially in the form 
of public speaking, is injurious to the health, is, I think, 
except in the case of particularly weak and excitable men, 
an erroneous one, and is not supported by the testimony 
of political biography. On the contrary, the evidence goes 
to show that platform agitation, even when it takes the form 
of arduous indoor and outdoor speaking, day after day, is 
on the whole beneficial rather than harmful to both body 
and mind. Politicians and preachers are comparatively a 
long-lived class of men. Talleyrand, Lord John Russell, 
M. Guizot, M. Thiers, Lord Beaconsfield, John Bright, 
Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, Sir Charles Dilke, Lord 
Halsbury, M. Clemenceau, and Dr. John Clifford, who are 
among the most active public men in recent history, all 
have lived to a ripe old age. And even if we turn to the more 
democratic class of agitators, who have spent the greater 
part of their lives in popular (or perhaps I should say un- 
popular] agitation, often having to undergo great strain and 
hardship in constant travelling and speaking in all sorts of 
conditions and seasons, do we not find the same testimony ? 
Robert Owen; John Wesley in his eighty-ninth year; 
George Jacob Holyoake lived till nearly ninety ; and Mr. 
Robert Applegarth, the veteran Trade Union leader, is still 
with us at over eighty years. And have we not the 
striking instance of Mrs. Besant, who when a young 
woman was, as she herself tells us, consumptive and was 
told by her doctor that public lecturing would either 
kill or cure her ? It cured her, and she is still alive and 
splendidly energetic though well over seventy years. 

It would seem, therefore, that the notion that public 
agitation is inimical to health is a delusion. 

Nor does it appear to me that the belief that Morris' 
health was undermined by the wear and tear of his work 
in the Socialist movement is well founded. Indeed, I am 



162 WILLIAM MORRIS 

persuaded that his Socialist agitation, so far from doing his 
health harm, refreshed his spirit, and was physically beneficial 
to him. He never, so far as I can ascertain, was more 
vigorous or freer from ailments, or more cheerful and happy, 
in the latter half of his life, than during the five years 
of his most active participation in Socialist propaganda. 

Doubtless the irritation and worry of the internal strife 
in the movement in later years tended to depress him ; but 
even then, may we not say that, so far from the strain of his 
exertions being the cause of his break-down, it was not until 
these dissensions led to his retirement from active propaganda 
that his health began to give way ? Who knows but, had 
he been able to keep clear of these irritating controversies 
and had continued in the thick of the agitation, he might 
have lived another twenty years ? And anyway, let us 
remember that countless men and women of robust con- 
stitutions, who never put foot on a public platform or become 
embroiled in political strife, die long before they reach 
Morris' age, which was sixty-two years. 

I have, I think, already, as Mackail and others have done, 
likened Morris in many ways to a child. This characteristic 
of childlikeness has been frequently noted in men of creative 
and imaginative minds. Goldsmith, Blake, and Shelley are 
familiar instances. But in Morris the trait of childlikeness 
was the more singular because of the otherwise dominantly 
manly, self-reliant, and exceedingly manifest practical 
capacity of the man. In Shelley's case the childlikeness 
marked the poet's whole disposition, and constantly showed 
itself in his thoughtlessness concerning not only the feelings 
and interests, but even the existence of others, including 
his wife and family, in the common affairs of life, and in 
wholly wayward and irrational impulses and fancies. He 
was full of superstition about ghosts and dreams, and, 
grown man and father of a family as he was, would at times 
run truant in the woods for days, or burst naked into a 
drawing-room assembly of men and women. Morris showed 
none of these more * infantile ' (shall I say ? ) peculiarities. 



HIS PUBLIC SPEAKING 163 

He was full grown in all his habits and capacities, and 
thoroughly commonsense and competent to the finger-tips 
in all the affairs of life. But yet there was ever in him 
that spontaneity of liking and disliking, that wilfulness and 
yet tractability, that predisposition at one moment to engage 
in amusement and frolic, and the next to fall to desperate 
seriousness, which makes unselfconscious childhood such an 
unfailing source of perturbation and charm. His love of 
bright colours, and all natural objects and beautiful things ; 
his restless eagerness to be doing something with his hands; 
his delight in companionship, in art and play, were all part 
of this elemental freshness of his nature. 

Perhaps the greatest charm of childhood is its unself- 
conscious egoism, its ' ownselfness,' its un-posturingness. 
No man was ever less capable of attitudinising or showing off 
than Morris. One simply could not conceive of him saying 
or doing anything in order to attract attention upon himself 
or win admiration. 

When, as so often he did, he told stories, or commented 
seriously or amusingly on people or buildings or happenings 
by the way, one felt that so far from doing so for the purpose 
of making himself noticeable, he would have made the same 
reflections to himself had no one been with him. The 
descriptions given us of many notable men of genius, even 
of such stately beings as George Meredith, staging their 
behaviour or remarks beforehand when expecting interest- 
ing visitors, would be unbelievable of William Morris. 



CHAPTER XVII 

SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 

RELIGION was a subject on which Morris never touched, 
not at any rate in a critical or confessionary way, in his 
writings or public addresses, and but rarely I think in private 
conversation. Only on one or two occasions did he ever 
speak of his own ideas about religion in my hearing, and the 
subject is rarely alluded to in his letters or conversations 
in Mr. Mackail's life and May Morris' biographical notes. 

Usually he spoke of himself as a pagan or an atheist, 
but never dogmatically or boastfully ; nor did he encourage 
argument on the subject. 

He rather liked, when among us in Glasgow, to poke 
fun at Scottish * unco guidism ' and * Sabbatarianism * 
both of which national characteristics had, however, already 
become, or were becoming, issues of tradition rather than 
conviction so far as the bulk of the town people in Scotland 
were concerned. 

On one occasion I happened incidentally to refer to 
the decay of religious observances in Scotland. * But,' 
said Morris, with a challenging twinkle in his eye, * you 
Scotch folk never had any religion, never at least since John 
Knox's day. You have merely a sort of theology, or rather 
a dfe-w/ology mixed up with Calvinistic metaphysics.' 

I retorted by saying that English people never had any 
religion, they had merely * Churchgoing.' * Perhaps you 
are in the main right,' he replied, * but at any rate their 
churchgoing was on the whole not an unpleasant sort of 

164 



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 165 

pastime. Their churches were and still in many parts of 
the country usually are quite handsome buildings, good to 
look at both from the outside and the inside but your 
Scottish Presbyterian conventicles Oh my ! Besides, the 
English Church service, however you may regard it through 
your Scottish " no popery " blinkers, is not at all a bad sort 
of way of making believe that you are grateful to Heaven 
for the good things and happiness of life, being that it is 
not Heaven's fault, but your own or somebody else's, if 
you don't happen to possess yourself of them and enjoy 
them.' 

This idea of his, whimsically put as it was, that religion 
or religious worship, if we are to have religion at all, should 
be some mode of expressing the happiness of life, even as 
art should be, appears to have been deeply rooted in his 
mind. A story is related of him in connection with the 
Hammersmith Branch of the Socialist League meetings 
which is characteristic of this persuasion of his. 

The branch was accustomed, as my readers know, to 
hold a meeting at Hammersmith Bridge on Sunday mornings 
in which Morris often took part. The possession of the 
ground was, however, contested by a group of Salvationists, 
who were usually on the scene an hour earlier than the 
Socialists. By a friendly arrangement it was eventually 
agreed that the Salvationists should wind up promptly 
at 11.30, provided the Socialists desisted until that time 
from any rival oratory. As often as not, however, the 
Salvationists, either from absorption in their mission or from, 
as was suspected, a desire to hold the crowd away from the 
' infidel ' teaching and * worldly ' hopes of the Socialists, 
far exceeded their allotted span of time : a breach of con- 
tract which always aroused Morris' * dander.' 

On one such occasion, losing all patience, Morris broke 
into the Salvationist ring, and addressing the Salvationist 
who was speaking exclaimed, ' Look here, my friend, you 
may think you are pleasing God by continuing your meeting 
beyond the agreed-upon time, but you are playing a nasty 



166 WILLIAM MORRIS 

trick, nevertheless; and what sort of God is your God anyway? 
Now I'll tell you the kind of God I should want my God to 
be. He'd be a big-hearted, jolly chap, who'd want to see 
everybody jolly and happy like Himself. He would talk 
to us about His work, about the seasons and flowers and birds, 
and so forth, and would say ' Gather round, boys, here's 
plenty of good victuals, and good wine also come, put your 
hand to and help yourselves, and we'll have a pipe and a song 
and a merry time together.' 

No one who really believes in God as an All-benevolent, 
Almighty Father, and who bears in mind Morris' inherently 
childlike way of looking at all things from a human level, 
will be disposed to see anything irreverent in this outburst. 
His whole conception of life as consisting in fellowship, in 
doing things to make oneself and one's fellows happy, his 
hatred of cruelty and oppression, selfishness, sordidness and 
ugliness in every form, was, if not religion itself, at least that 
without which religion becomes an illogical and unfeeling 
pietism or pretence. And it would be hard for any theologian 
whose creed is in accord with the laudatory psalms, the 
Messianic prophecies, and the essential teaching of the 
Gospels, to deny that in Morris' conception of what life 
on earth should be, and could be, there is a much nearer 
approach to the true Kingdom of God than is to be found 
in most of the conventional devotionalism of the Churches. 

Yet many who are quite ready to see in what Morris 
called his * paganism ' a religion of life, consistent as far 
as it goes with the highest spiritual ideals, are disappointed 
by the absence in him of apparently any interest in beliefs 
and hopes concerning invisible things, concerning the great 
questions of the existence of the world, of life, of death, 
of eternity questions which have pressed on the minds 
of the great thinkers and poets of all ages from Job and 
Aeschylus, Socrates and Omar Khayyam, Dante and 
Shakespeare, Spinoza and Milton, Hegel and Shelley. 
This sense of disappointment with the lack of any spiritual 
purpose or spiritual hope in Morris' teaching is, if I am 



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 167 

to judge from my own experience in later days, as well as 
from what I gather from my book-reading and from my 
conversations with others, more keenly or, at least, more 
widely felt now, than in Morris' day quite recent though 
that be. 

Supernaturalism and mysticism of every kind were then 
still in almost complete intellectual disrepute, bundled out 
of cultivated consideration by the Higher Criticism and 
scientific agnosticism. Thoughtful minds generally turned 
as implacably away from theosophy or any sort of deism or 
theism as from Biblical revelation. Old-world wisdom and 
old wives' wisdom were alike tabooed. 

But a great change in the attitude of free thought is 
manifest since then. Earnest minds no longer presume the 
all-sufficiency of the laboratory and dissecting table as 
oracles of the mystery of matter and life. The advance 
of scientific knowledge the astonishing discovery of the 
atom and the cell, and of the unsubstantially or unma- 
teriality, so to speak, of matter itself, and of the elusiveness 
of energy and life, as indicated by the newer theories of" 
the nature of the ether, and the acceptance of thought- 
transference as a physical or psychological fact these and 
other remarkable scientific discoveries which are leading 
science to what is seemingly the borderline of a world 
beyond the cognizance of the bodily senses, have powerfully 
affected the rationalism and idealism of the present day. 

So great indeed has been the reaction of intelligent 
opinion in this respect, that no solution, however complete 
it be, of the problem of human happiness in relation to the 
material circumstances of life, suffices for the needs of 
thoughtful minds. Noble and beautiful as we may succeed 
in making the practice of life, this achievement alone will 
not yield us a self-containing philosophy or religion of life. 
It does not provide due nourishment and exercise for the 
intellectual and physical faculties of a large portion of the 
men and women in our midst to-day. The soul or spirit 
puts forth imperative claims for consideration. 



168 WILLIAM MORRIS 

Sharing, as I myself now do, very largely in this changed 
outlook of mind, I find the question forces itself upon me 
as it doubtless also does on many readers of these pages Is 
the gospel of Art and Socialism as exemplified in the work 
and teaching of William Morris adequate as a practical 
precept and philosophy of life ? Would I, for example, 
say to any earnest-minded young man or woman, * Go and 
follow as far as in your power lies the teaching of William 
Morris, and therein you will find the whole duty and 
Kingdom of Man ? ' No, indeed, I should not. My 
infatuation, if such it be, for Morris' genius and achieve- 
ment does not carry me to so rash a conclusion. But I 
should unhesitatingly say * Go to Morris and follow him 
as far as relates to your duty towards your fellows, as friends, 
citizens, and workers, as far as concerns all things embraced 
in the terms, Society, industry, art, politics, and the common 
life of the community, and you will not go far wrong ; 
indeed I do not think you will go wrong at all.' Morris' 
practical teaching he himself has crystallised into an axiom : 
4 There are only two ways to-day of being really happy 
to work for Socialism or to do work worthy of Socialism.' 
And to doers of the will, knowledge of the doctrine has 
been promised. 

But having said so much on the subject of Morris and 
religion, I perceive I must yet, for my own satisfaction, 
say a word or two more. For I find myself haunted with 
the thought that I, like others who knew him, may have 
too readily assumed that because he did not in his public 
utterances or except in rare instances in private conver- 
sations (so far as I have heard tell) discuss the deeper 
questions of religion, he therefore took no interest in these 
questions, and possessed no beliefs or hopes concerning them. 
How far wrong all this may be ! Indeed, considering how 
essentially moral (I use the word in its strongest and truest 
sense) was Morris' whole attitude to life, and how deeply 
instinctive were the powers of his nature, it seems incredible 
that there did not lie somewhere in him thoughts and 



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 169 

cravings beyond what the senses and experience of what 
we call the material world can supply. 

The fact that he did not choose to speak about these 
themes, that he did not feel he was likely to derive any 
satisfaction from the discussion of them, may as reasonably 
be interpreted as an indication of the deep regard in which 
he held them, as of mere indifference towards them. He 
knew enough about theological and philosophical controversy 
to know that all the disputation of the ages had resulted in 
no clearer understanding of the reason or mystery of these 
problems. And is it not true besides that it is often just 
those subjects subjects relating to our deeper intellectual 
emotions that we shrink most from dragging into the 
arena of discussion ? They lie too deep for ratiocination. 
The light must come to each from within not without. 

One evening, probably the last I spent with him, sitting 
in the library, he asked abruptly : 

' Do you ever think about death ? I hate to think 
about it, but my illness has forced the thought of it on me, 
worse luck. Yes, I hate it, but I don't fear it. I love 
life, I love the world. The world contains everything 
beautiful and joyful. I know of no happiness that I can 
desire, no life that I should wish to live, that could give me 
more happiness than this world and life can give. Barring 
human wrong-doing, and disease, decrepit old age, and 
death, I see no imperfection in it. Heaven, or another 
life beyond the grave, of which men dream and hope so 
fondly, could give me nothing which I possess the 
faculties to use or enjoy, that the present world and life 
cannot give, except maybe were it true reunion with 
those who have gone before or who will shortly afterwards 
follow. Human wrong-doing and perhaps disease can 
be got rid of: but old age and death are irremediable. 
Sometimes death appears to me awful, terrible, so cruel, 
so absurd. Yet there are times when I don't have that 
feeling and death seems sweet and desirable. I sometimes 
think how sweet it would be to lie in the earth at the feet 



170 WILLIAM MORRIS 

of the grass and flowers, if only I could see the old church, 
and the meadow, and hear the birds and the voices of the 
village folk. But that, of course, would not be death ; 
and I suppose that I should soon want to be up and doing. 
No, I cannot think it out. It is inexplicable. 

* There is Tolstoy, too. There is much that is inter- 
esting in him and in his " Inward Light " idea. I do not 
despise his teaching. I only feel that it leads me deeper into 
the insoluble mystery.' 



I must warn my readers that in these jottings I am 
giving rather what expresses my present impression of some 
of Morris' observations than what he actually said or meant 
to convey. My mind, as I have already said, was not, 
at that time, closely bent on religious topics. Had I been 
listening to him now, or even a year or two later, when 
my mind was re-opening itself to the wonder of these high 
questions of belief with what ardour and care I should 
have made record of every word of his conversation ! 

Only on one other occasion did he speak to me in an 
intimate way about the deeper problems of religion. I 
had not intended trying to set down in these pages his 
remarks on that occasion, because on my first reflecting 
back on our conversation my recollection of it hardly seemed 
to yield any additional light on the inner state of his mind. 
But the foregoing considerations have now made me think 
that I may be wrong in that judgment ; and I have decided 
therefore to recall as clearly as I can the tenor of his 
remarks. 

The conversation to which I refer took place during 
one of my last talks with him : indeed, I am not sure 
but that it was the very last time we spoke together in his 
library at Kelmscott House. I cannot now remember what 
led him to allude to the subject ; but perhaps it arose from 
my having mentioned to him that I had, that morning, 
on my way to his house, met Mr. Touzeau Paris, a neighbour 



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 171 

of his, formerly an ardent secularist lecturer, and now no 
less zealous as a propagandist in the Socialist movement. 

* What are your present-day opinions about religion ? ' 
he asked abruptly. 

I replied that I was still, so far as I knew, an agnostic ; 
but that I was not so sure now as I used to be that agnos- 
ticism or materialism was the last word on the subject. 

* Perhaps,' he said, ' I am much in the same position ; 
but I have never allowed myself to worry about these ques- 
tions since I was at Oxford thinking of becoming a parson. 
Don't you think I should have made a capital bishop ? 
I should like to have swaggered about in full canonicals 
anyway, but not in shovel hat, apron and gaiters Oh my ! 
But so far as I can discover from logical thinking, I am 
what is called bluntly an Atheist. I cannot see any real 
evidence of the existence of God or of immortality in the 
facts of the world amazing as is the whole phenomenon 
of the universe. And of this I am absolutely convinced 
that if there is a God, He never meant us to know much 
about Himself, or indeed to concern ourselves about Him 
at all. Had He so wished, don't you think He would have 
made His existence and wishes so overwhelmingly clear 
to us that we could not possibly have ever doubted about 
it at all ? 

' But Atheist though I must consider myself when I 
reason about the matter, my Atheism has as little effect upon 
my ordinary conduct and work-a-day views of things, as 
belief in Christ appears to have on the majority of Christians. 
So far as I commonly think and act, I do so precisely as do 
most other fairly sensible folk that is to say, I think and 
act in accordance with the thoughts, traditions, and habits 
of my day and generation. Commonly, in all that concerns 
my thought and work, I think of God and Christ, Angels 
and Saints, just as do devout churchmen, and so also in a 
way when I think about Greek and Scandinavian mythology, 
I do so doubtless as the Greeks and Norsemen did. The 
Gods are all as real to my imagination as are historical and 



172 WILLIAM MORRIS 

living persons, and their miraculous powers seem quite 
natural to their office, so to speak. Some people, as you 
know, have upbraided Burne-Jones and myself for using 
so much Christian legend and symbolism in our work, all 
of which they say is quite outside the belief of any but most 
crudely superstitious minds ; but the fools do not perceive that 
with us in our art Christian legends and symbolism are as 
true as with any of themselves as true and as eternal as 
the world itself in which we live. When, for example, I 
look at Burne-Jones' " The Merciful Knight," in which 
the Christ figure on the crucifix stoops down to kiss the 
Knight, the meaning and lesson of the picture is not a whit 
less true or real to me than to Cardinal Newman or Bishop 
Lightfoot. In a sense, therefore, I am just as much a 
Christian as are professed Christians, and in the practical 
sense of believing in Christ's example and teaching I am, I 
hope, much more a Christian than the majority of them are. 
And I suspect that if we got to close terms we should find 
also that they are just about as much Atheists and Infidels 
as are Annie Besant and myself. What do you think ? ' 

Then, after a moment, he observed, * The truth is 
that none of us know what actually the universe is of which 
we ourselves form a part. Priests, prophets, and philo- 
sophers in all ages have puzzled themselves trying to find 
out God, and are no nearer the end of their quest to-day 
than five thousand years ago. We do not know what we 
ourselves are, or what the world is, nor, if it comes to that, 
do we know what poetry, or art, or happiness is. One 
thing is quite certain to me, and that is that our beliefs, 
whatever they be, whether concerning God, or nature, or 
art, or happiness, are in the end only of account in so far 
as they affect the right doings of our lives, so far, in fact, as 
they make ourselves and our fellows happy. And in actual 
fact I find about the same amount of goodness and badness, 
happiness and misery among peoples of all creeds Jew, 
Christian, and Gentile. On the whole, therefore, I opine 
that our religion, our duty, and our happiness are one and 



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 173 

the same and our duty and happiness is, or ought to be, 
to grow and live, to be beautiful and happy as the flowers 
and the birds are. God, if there is a God, will never be 
angry with us for doing or being that ; and if there be, as 
perhaps most of us sometimes almost hope there may be, 
an after-life, we shan't be the less fit for its fellowship by 
having made ourselves good fellows in this.' 



APPENDIX 



APPENDIX 



THE COMMONWEAL 

MORRIS undertook the editorship of the Commonweal with 
great reluctance, and only because there was no one else 
who had the time or capacity for the work who could 
be entrusted with it. Besides, as he knew that he would have 
to be financially responsible for the paper, it was, of course 
rather important, in view of the laws of sedition and libel, 
that he should have control of its contents. He had stipu- 
lated that his editorship would chiefly be of a figure-head 
character, and that the bulk of the technical and drudgery 
work should be put on the shoulders of the sub-editor, who 
would be paid for his services. 

Dr. Aveling was appointed sub-editor in the first instance, 
but was asked to resign after a year or so, and H. H. Sparling 
was appointed in his place. David Nicol became sub- 
editor in 1889. 

The first number of the Commonweal appeared in 
February 1885, and the last number under Morris' editor- 
ship in August 1889. It was continued, as I have 
recorded elsewhere, as an Anarchist journal for one or two 
years afterwards, latterly as a monthly, but dwindled into 
obscurity. 

The loss on running the Commonweal was always 
heavy, and had to be met by Morris out of his own purse. 
In one of his letters to me in 1888, I think, he estimated 
the circulation of the paper then at 2800 copies, and the 

177 N 



178 WILLIAM MORRIS 

weekly deficit at 4. In a later letter he says : * I am now 
paying for the League (including Commonweal) at the rate 
of 500 a year, and I cannot afford it.' 

The task of editorship, as I have said, from the outset 
was distasteful to him, not so much because, as is commonly 
supposed, he felt he had no aptitude for journalism, as 
because from the circumstances of the case it required him 
to give so much attention to the mere controversial side of 
party politics. I have not the least doubt that he would 
have made as good a shape at the craft of journalism as at 
the many other crafts which he so successfully took up, 
had the work enticed him. I can well imagine him col- 
laborating in running a journal devoted to Socialism, or to 
art, or literature, or to any branch of work in which he was 
deeply interested, and proving himself first-rate as an editor 
or contributor. Those who know how invariably lively, 
instructive, and to the point were his remarks in conver- 
sation and in his letters on almost every subject that con- 
cerned the affairs of life will, I think, agree with me here. 
But in writing for the Commonweal, the official journal of 
the League, he was expected to write, week after week, 
about the tiresome and now quite obsolete incidents and 
controversies of Gladstone-Salisbury politics a task into 
which he could put no heart. 

Scanning his Commonweal notes to-day, one perceives 
that he is rarely himself in them, but is writing perfunctorily, 
dealing with matters which he thought it was the duty of 
the editor of the Commonweal to say. Thus he is often 
laboriously censorious, and his notes make heavy and dull 
reading. The niceties, trickeries, and obvious gammon of 
so much of what was going on in the name of politics 
were unsuitable for treatment from the serious point of 
view with which he regarded the plight of the working- 
class, and the revolutionary struggle which he saw con- 
fronting the civilised world. But he was not always laboured 
or dull ; and it was rare for him to write on any theme 
without saying something fresh and suggestive. Even 






APPENDIX 179 

when belabouring for the hundredth time Gladstone, 
Chamberlain, and Balfour, or rating as if by rote some 
capitalist apologia by Professor Leone Levi or Sir Thomas 
Brassey, he seldom failed to introduce some phrase or turn 
of thought outside the range of ordinary journalist allusion. 

Such as it was, considering the limitations of its space, 
and the restrictions of its purpose, the Commonweal 
compared favourably with any other Socialist or propa- 
gandist journal of its day. There are to be found in it, 
I venture to think, more pages of matter interesting to read 
to-day than can be found in any similar contemporary 
publication. Alike in get-up and in the quality of its 
contributions, especially during the three years 1887-1889, 
when Morris was rid of the disturbing meddlings of Dr. 
Aveling (his then sub-editor) and before the Anarchist 
influences began to force themselves upon him, it will 
bear comparison proudly with either its weekly rival 
Justice, or with Our Corner, To-Day, or the Practical 
Socialist, monthly magazines which enjoyed the advantages 
of the collaboration of such experienced journalists as 
Annie Besant, Hubert Bland, Bernard Shaw, and other 
Fabian Fleet Street intellectuals. Nor should we fail to note 
that from the outset of his editorship of the Common- 
weal, as with all things to which he turned his hands, 
Morris sought as best he could with the means at his disposal 
to embody in his work right principles of conduct and of 
art. Thus he tried to make the paper in some degree a 
good example of typographical art, designing for it a simple 
but beautiful title block, and insisting upon good, readable 
type and consistency of headings and spacing throughout 
eschewing all vulgarisations of display. Also he set his face 
like flint against any log-rolling or personal flattery in its 
columns, and against all commercial advertisements that 
would degrade the character of the paper, and against 
purveying merely 'spicy* or garish paragraphs. Also he 
aimed that the paper should be primarily educational in its 



180 WILLIAM MORRIS 

character, and such as might give to everyone who looked 
at it, whether workman or intellectual, a due impression of 
the high seriousness and greatness of the Socialist aims, 
and proof that Socialism was not a mere form of political 
faction, but was concerned with all questions relating to 
the advance of the thought and life of the nation. 

Imperfectly as he succeeded in these aims, it is well to 
remember that at least he made the best effort in his power 
to accomplish them. In this, as in all other things to which 
he set his mind or hands, he gave proof of the sincerity with 
which he held the principles he laid down for his own and 
others' guidance. 



II 

LETTERS FROM MORRIS, 
WITH INTRODUCTION BY J. B. G. 

AMONG the few treasures I possess are letters, books, and 
photographs of my co-workers in the Socialist movement, 
and among the most valued of these are those relating to 
William Morris. Small as is my little collection of relics 
of Morris, it includes, besides autographed copies of several of 
his books, and one or two photographs, one very great treasure, 
namely, a collection of letters written by him to me between 
1885 and 1901. These form in themselves an exceedingly 
interesting record of Morris' views and of his intense 
absorption in the work of the League during its period of 
greatest propaganda activity. Mr. Mackail did not know 
of their existence when he wrote Morris' Life, though he 
has since read them. May Morris, however, has made a 
number of extracts from them in her biographical intro- 
ductions to her complete edition of Morris' works. She 
has also most kindly had the letters handsomely bound for 
me in red leather by Mr. Douglas Cockerell, who, together 
with Mr. T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, has done so much both 
by his writings and his own handiwork to revive and advance 
the art of bookbinding. 

In vol. xx, page xlii, of the complete edition, May 
Morris introduces several quotations from these letters in 
a paragraph in which she says that Morris looked forward 
to his provincial tours, especially those to Glasgow and 
Scotland generally, as * his annual holiday,' so to speak. 

181 



1 82 WILLIAM MORRIS 

4 Wearied by efforts in London to keep the peace between 
impossible elements in the League, it was no small pleasure 
to him to meet these men who delighted in him, and who 
gathered around him in the evenings clamouring for news 
from down south, and singing him old ballads and rollicking 
college songs till the small hours. Like their friend from 
the south, they had their minds fixed on the ultimate goal 
of perfect freedom and on the immediate study and under- 
standing of the claims of Socialism. Bruce Glasier, 
perhaps thanks to his mother, a sympathetic lady of Gaelic 
blood, had a strong poetic strain in him too, and enthusiasm 
of a quality that years have not impaired.' 

Morris was so frankly outspoken in all his utterances, 
public and private, that except with regard to occasional 
personal remarks about his colleagues and other people, 
and concerning some of his more private affairs, his letters 
rarely reveal any shade of opinion or deliverance, which 
those who are generally acquainted with his writings would 
discover with surprise. But they reveal some of those 
traits of point-blankness of opinion, or right-downness of 
conviction, and above all those whimsicalities of mood, 
which as a rule he only permitted himself to express in his 
freest conversations with friends. 

In all I received some seventy letters from him, but 
possess now only fifty-six of them, as I gave some away 
to comrades who were eager to possess a memento of him. 
The letters cover a period of ten years, from February 

1886 to September 1896 a few weeks before he died. 
The majority of them were written between the years 

1887 and 1889, when I was associated with him in the 
work of the Socialist League. After that period I rarely 
corresponded with him by letter, as I had during the suc- 
ceeding three or four years to go more frequently to London, 
and saw him often at Hammersmith. 

The letters relate chiefly to the work of the Socialist 
League, especially to the internal controversies in the 
party, and to the Commonweal. They contain, however, 



APPENDIX 183 

frequent allusions to public affairs, and are sprinkled over 
with characteristic obiter dicta concerning the personalities 
of the movement. 

My intention at first was only to give a very few extracts 
here and there from them, but on reading them over afresh 
I feel that for Socialist readers, at any rate, they possess so 
much interest alike because of the intimate light which 
they throw upon the early circumstances of the movement, 
and because they display not only Morris' intense earnest- 
ness in the work of Socialism, but the zeal and sound common- 
sense with which he tackled the practical difficulties and 
controversial problems which beset the movement in its 
beginning that I have decided to give the greater portion 
of them as they stand. Besides simply as letters coming from 
his pen, they are, as I have said, so characteristic in purpose 
and form, that I feel sure they will be welcomed by all 
lovers of Morris. 

Morris had the disability, if it be such, of being incapable 
of assuming any character or views other than his own. 
He could never have been an actor ; he had no histrionic 
talent. In his speech, his writings, his art, in all things 
that he did, he was always William Morris. There never 
perhaps was an artist or writer whose work was invariably 
so unmistakably his own. From but a sentence or two 
of any writing of his, or the smallest scrap of one of his 
designs, his authorship can be discovered at once. 

It follows from this that one can hardly, as in the case 
of many authors, speak of his letter-writing as being different 
in character from his book- writing. His letters are just 
as his books, except that in the former he is sometimes more 
blunt in phrase or whimsical and off-hand in his mood 
of the moment. Whether, therefore, he is to be classed 
among those authors who rank as great letter-writers, I am 
unable to give an opinion. There appear to be as many 
varieties in what is reckoned first-rate letter- writing as in 
every other department of literature. Chesterfield, Ruther- 
ford, Cowper, Burns, Byron, Shelley, Lord Acton, are all 



184 WILLIAM MORRIS 

famed as letter-writers, yet how different in substance and 
style are their respective productions ! 



Kelmscott House, Upper Mall, Hammersmith 

February zoth (1886). 

DEAR MR. GLASIER, I must ask your pardon re your 
* Law and Order.' 1 We shall not have room for it 
this month ; but I will try to put it in next (April). You 
will excuse me, I hope, for keeping other poems out in 
favour of my own ; but as mine is a * continuation ' the 
effect is bad if I slip a number, as I have sometimes been 
obliged to do. I think your * Ballade ' is good ; brisk and 
spirited. 

Yours fraternally, 

WILLIAM MORRIS. 

The Commonweal Publishing Office, 

13 Farringdon Road, London, E.G. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, About coming to Glasgow. I 
have promised the Industrial Remuneration people 2 to 
lecture (the same lecture) at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and 
Dundee, beginning on June 23rd. I could not come 
before as the weekly Comm. and my Dublin journey 
absolutely prevented me. Perhaps something might be 
done as to giving a special lecture under the auspices of the 
branch when I come. Commonweal : I want you to 
write for us whatever you think you can do well, and please 
let us have something soon. 

Kelmscott House, Upper Mall, Hammersmith, 

April 24th (1886). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Thanks for your note. Perhaps 
an extra lecture or lectures could be managed on my return 
from Dundee, which is the last place where I give my lecture 

1 The ' Ballade of Law and Order,' verses by myself which 
appeared in Commonweal, April 1886. 

* A series of additional lectures carried on from the Industria 
Remuneration Conference held at Edinburgh, January 1886. 
See footnote to Chapter III. 



APPENDIX 185 

for those folk. See how it can be done and make proposals ; 
as the Ind. Rem. people pay me, it would be well to use 
the occasion. 

As to your letter re Bax, I am not quite sure that it 
would be wise to put it in as it would be cutting the dam of 
the waters of controversy, since, of course, Bax must be 
allowed to reply. I will consult with him next Wednesday, 
and do you please consider the matter yourself. The letter 
is well written and there is of course much reason in it, 
but on the whole I agree with Bax. The religion-education- 
family question is a difficult one, if one looks at it from the 
point of view of transitional Socialism, and we might, I 
think (not agreeing with Bax here) be content to let it alone 
in that stage. But when Socialism is complete the new 
economics will have transformed the family, and this will 
clear up the difficulty ; nor do I believe there will be any 
necessity for using compulsion towards rational education. 
Meantime we must be clear about one thing, that, in opposi- 
tion to the present bourgeois view, we hold that children 
are persons, not property, and so have a right to claim all the 
advantages which the community provides for every citizen. 
Again, as to the woman matter, it seems to me that there is 
more to be said on Bax's side than you suppose. For my 
part, being a male man, I naturally think more of the female 
man than I do of my own sex : but you must not forget 
that child-bearing makes women inferior to men, since a 
certain time of their lives they must be dependent on them. 
Of course we must claim absolute equality of condition 
between women and men, as between other groups, but 
it would be poor economy setting women to do men's work 
(as unluckily they often do now) or vice versa. 

However, this is rambling. I hope you will do all you 
can to push Commonweal, and have a little patience if it is 
not all you could desire at first. I think the May ist number 
will be a good one. Notes especially on Labour questions 
are much looked for from the branches ; we want to keep 
alongside the times as much as possible. 



i86 WILLIAM MORRIS 

August i6th (1886). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Please send us some more copy 
for Commonweal ; for I am very anxious sometimes about 
the supply of that article. You will see that we are in hot 
water again with the police here, and for my part I think it 
a great nuisance. It is, after all, a side issue, and I grudge 
everything that takes people's attention off the true eco- 
nomical and social issues, which are the only things of 
importance. Still, we must fight out this skirmish, though 
I hope wisely. 

With fraternal greetings from all of us. 

December is/, 1886. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Many thanks for your long, 
interesting, and hopeful letter. I was well pleased with 
all you had to tell me, except that you had been ill and were 
out of work. I suppose you will think I am teaching, if 
not my grandmother, yet at least my grandson, to suck eggs, 
when I say that it is most important that you should get more 
fuglemen. It seems to me that it would be good winter 
work for you to ' mutually improve ' each other in Socialism 
and in public speaking. At Hammersmith we are having 
a class on Sundays to bring out young speakers, and try 
to cure them of 'stage-fever,' and their wrigglements to 
avoid speaking are amusing. I am much pleased to hear 
your views as to the parliamentary side of things ; all the 
more as, to say the truth, up here we are having some trouble 
with some of our friends on that point. I think needlessly, 
because, after all, they have no more wish than the others to 
push the League into electioneering. 

Yes, I did say that to Kropotkin ; but I did not mean 
that at some time or other it might not be necessary for 
Socialists to go into Parliament in order to break it up ; but 
again, that could only be when we are very much more 
advanced than we are now ; in short, on the verge of a 
revolution ; so that we might either capture the army, or 
shake their confidence in the legality of their position. 



APPENDIX 187 

At present it is not worth while even thinking of that, 
and our sole business is to make Socialists. I really feel 
sickened at the idea of all the intrigue and degradation of 
concession which would be necessary to us as a parliamentary 
party ; nor do I see any necessity for a revolutionary party 
doing any ' dirty work ' at all, or soiling ourselves with any- 
thing that would unfit us for being due citizens of the new 
order of things. As for the S.D.F., if their leaders really 
believe in the usefulness of the measures which they are 
putting forward, let them go on ; but if they do not believe, 
they are playing a dangerous game. And in any case their 
present successes are won at the expense of withdrawing 
real Socialism from view in favour of mere palliation and 
* reform.' 

For the rest, I think it is a mistake to play at revolt ; 
it is but poor propaganda to behave like a dog sniffing at a 
red-hot poker, and being obliged to draw his nose back in 
a hurry for fear of being burnt. As to Hyndman's patronage 
of me, I am proud enough to be humble, and am glad not 
to be put down as an enemy by any section of Socialists ; 
but as to what he says about the League in London, that 
be damned ! As a party of principle, we are not likely to 
number as many members as an opportunist body ; but we 
have several solid and increasing branches here. A good 
South London branch has lately been formed ; we Hammer- 
smith chaps have formed a Fulham one now flourishing ; 
Hackney is not bad ; Hoxton is good ; Mile End is being 
reorganised ; North London is much improved ; Blooms- 
bury is very much so ; Mitcham has been set on its legs by 
Kitz ; Croydon is sound, though somewhat sleepy. Of 
course we ought to do much more, but we are suffering 
from the lack of energetic initiative men, who are not 
overburdened with work and responsibilities. It is true 
that we have far too much bickering over our Central 
Council work ; but I feel sure that the branches will take 
care that we shall not spoil all by that, if we haven't the 
sense to do so ourselves, which, however, I think we shall 



188 WILLIAM MORRIS 

do. I mention this as you will possibly have heard exag- 
gerated reports of it, from S.D.F. people or otherwise. 
I don't suppose that any body of men can be quite free from 
such troubles. I know that S.D.F. is not, in spite of all 
their being bossed by three or four men. 

As to Edinburgh, it would appear that they know more 
of my movements than I do myself ; but I suppose I must 
assume that they have the gift of prophecy, and go north in 
March next ; all the more as I want to visit Lancaster again, 
where something is to be done, I hope. So of course I will 
come to Glasgow that while. 

By the way, what about this lock-out and strike in 
Dundee ? Can any of our friends do anything there ? 
As to my pars on Salisbury and Churchill, you must remem- 
ber, 1st, that I make them stalking-horses for bringing 
Constitutionalism into contempt ; 2nd, that in London 
there are people inclined towards Socialism who haven't got 
as far as Radicalism yet, and think Tory Democracy might 
help them, save the mark ! but I will mend, I will mend. 

With fraternal greetings and best wishes all round. 

February i8th (1887). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Cunninghame Graham is going 
to speak at a meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday. In case 
you have not heard of it before, though I suppose you will 
have, I write to tell you, so that you may roll up there all 
you can. 

I send you my hearty congratulations on your meeting 
of last Sunday. 1 I think you have acted both boldly 
and prudently in not letting the matter slip away from 
you, and carrying out your meeting well ; and you seem, 
to judge from the reports, to have said just the right thing. 
Good luck be with you. 

P.S. Cunninghame Graham's address in Glasgow is 
George Hotel, George Square. 

1 A special demonstration held under the auspices of the Glasgow 
branch of the Socialist League in support of the Lanarkshire miners' 
trike. 






APPENDIX 189 

March i8th, 1887. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, As to lecture : it has yet (alas ! ) 
to be written, and by whatever name it were called would 
smell as sweet or as sour. I am not very likely, I fear, to 
overload it with economics ; but in case anyone should 
think himself beguiled by false pretences, suppose we call 
it * True and False Society.' 

I note April 3 for the date of the Glasgow lecture ; 
and Hamilton, when will that be ? Also could we arrange 
for a Dundee trip and lecture ? Edinburgh, of course, will 
expect another dose ; and there was some talk of Aberdeen ; 
but that I think I can scarcely manage, as Lancaster expects 
me on my way back. Will you talk to the Edinburgh folk 
and sketch out some plan, and I'll see if it can be done. 

As to the proposed new paper, I didn't mean that we 
should have but one or two always, I only thought that 
there was not a public large enough at present, and that 
pushing Comm. was at present the only thing to be done. 
We ought to increase the circulation by one thousand this 
year and then it would be safe. There have been so many 
advanced papers which have been born to die that it would 
be a most serious advantage if we could make one Socialist 
paper relatively immortal. I put this before the Edinburgh 
friends and they quite agree. Of course I am very loth 
to even appear to throw cold water on a scheme of propa- 
ganda ; I only want no energy wasted. 

We had a fine meeting last night to celebrate the Com- 
mune crowded. Kropotkin spoke in English, and very well. 

So you will write and tell me what you think I had 
better do, and I will consider your plans. 

By the way, your paper about the grocer * is amusing ; 
but if the portrait is recognisable it is libellous, and the C. 
cannot bear a libel case for anything short of high treason. 
How about the libellousness of it ? 

1 ' Men who are not Socialists,' one of a series of articles which 
began in Commonweal, May 7, 1887. I assured him that the 
characters were fictitious and unidentifiable. 



i 9 o WILLIAM MORRIS 

December 2ist, 1887. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Many thanks for your letter. I 
am very pleased to hear that you stick together well. . . . 

Yes, I think that Champion is going all awry with his 
opportunism ; but after all that is but natural, since it is 
after all the line that the S.D.F. has taken all along ; only 
they have mixed it up with queer Anarchist or rather sham 
terrorist tactics, and frankly I think under the circumstances 
he is right to drop that ; so that he is properly a consistent 
S.D.F. man, taking the lines upon which we split off from 
them. I cannot believe, however, that he is a self-seeker, 
and so hope that he will one day see the error of his ways. 

Last Sunday, as you will see, went off well. I must 
say I expected a big shindy ; but was very glad that I was 
disappointed, for it would have led to nothing. As it is, it 
was a victory, for it was the most enormous concourse of 
people I ever saw ; the number incalculable ; the crowd 
sympathetic and quite orderly. 

However, I shall be glad to let the Pall Mall Gazette 
go on its ways now, and get to work harder on our special 
business which all this demonstrating has rather hindered ; 
rather in the united action of the body in London, however, 
than in me. I mean ordinary meetings have been somewhat 
neglected for these bigger jobs. 

I send herewith a photo ; the artist has done his best in 
it, I do believe. But what would you have ? 

Let me know soon about what time you expect me to 
come down, that I may make arrangements for a regular 
tour. I may as well do as much as I can. 

I think I am more likely to write an epic on your 
(spiritual) birth than on that of your namesake of 
Bannockburn ; but I apologise to all Scotchmen for my 
irreverence that you twit me with. 

By the way, I must say that Mrs. Besant has been 
acting like a brick. She really is a good woman ; though, 
as you know, in theory tarred with the opportunist stick. 

Greetings to all. 



APPENDIX 191 

April i8th, 1888. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, You will see that a comrade 
rather attacks your last production as frivolous ; it however 
(not to make you vain) did something to sell the paper. 1 
At Victoria Park the Weal was going very slow, and then 
one speaker began to quote from you and straightway Weal 
began to flow. So don't mind Catterson Smith, but send 
another. 

I am just going to begin printing a new book, not 
Socialistic except by inference : I will send you a copy when 
it comes out, though there is nothing about Wallace Wight 
in it. 

P.S. I say, 3 quires seems but a little to sell in the 
commercial capital of Scotland. 

May igth (1888). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, I quite agree with your views 
about the future of the League and the due position of a 
revolutionary party of principle as to its dealings with 
Parliament. 

As to affairs at the Conference, I am of course most 
anxious to avoid a split, and so I believe is everyone, and I 
hope that some modus vivendi will be found. As to myself, 
you may be sure that I will not be pedantically stiff about 
non-essentials. At the same time there are certain con- 
victions which I cannot give up, and in action there are 
certain courses which I cannot support. If you will 
re-read the Editorial of the first number of the weekly 
Commonweal, you will see my position stated exactly as I 
should state it now, and which was the position taken by all 
of us when the League was first formed. If the League 
reverses its views on these points it stultifies our action in 

1 The article in question was one on ' Why I don't like Clergy- 
men.' A supposed humorous skit. The Comrade who objected 
to it was Catterson Smith, the well-known translator of Burne- 
Jones' drawings for the Kelmscott edition of Chaucer. He, Catter- 
son Smith, and myself had an amusing discussion over the ' Ethics 
of Humour ' afterwards. He was one of the most earnest and 
delightful of the Kelmscott House ' Brotherhood.' 



192 WILLIAM MORRIS 

leaving the S.D.F., and becomes a different body to that 
which I first joined. I should therefore be forced, to my 
very great sorrow, to leave it, not for the purpose of sulking 
in my tent, but in order to try some other form of propa- 
ganda. I ought now to explain what would drive me 
out of the League, and how far I could meet our friends 
who are so anxious to have us take a part in Parliamentary 
action : 

A mere abstract resolution that we might have to send 
members to Parliament at some time or other would not 
drive me out. But I believe, with you, that, whatever 
they may think, our Parliamentary friends would not be 
able to stop there, and that a necessary consequence of the 
passing of the Croydon resolution would have to be the 
issue of a programme involving electioneering in the near 
future, and the immediate putting forward of a programme 
of palliative measures to be carried through Parliament, 
some such programme, in short, as the * stepping stones ' of 
the S.D.F., which I always disagreed with. Such a step 
I could not support, for I could not preach in favour of 
such measures (since I don't believe in their efficacy) 
without lying and subterfuge, which are surely always 
anti-social. 

As to my conduct at the conference, my branch has 
instructed me as delegate to try to get the furtherers of the 
Parliamentary resolution to pledge themselves against this 
palliative programme (in case the Croydon resolution is 
carried). If they will do that I personally can still go on 
with them ; if not, I cannot, much as I should wish to do 
so. I almost fear that they cannot give this pledge ; but 
at the same time I do not think they wish to drive matters 
to extremities. The best plan therefore would be to with- 
draw their resolution, and so avoid committing themselves 
to a course of action which would risk breaking up the 
League. 

I hope you understand my position ; I recapitulate, 
ist, under no circumstances will I give up active propaganda. 



APPENDIX 193 

2nd, I will make every effort to keep the League together. 
3rd, we should treat Parliament as a representative of the 
enemy. 4th, we might for some definite purpose be forced 
to send members to Parliament as rebels. 5th, but under 
no circumstances to help to carry on their Government of 
the country. 6th, and therefore we ought not to put 
forward palliative measures to be carried through Par- 
liament, for that would be helping them to govern us. 
yth, if the League declares for this latter step, it ceases to 
be what I thought it was, and I must try to do what I can 
outside it. 8th, but short of that I will work inside it. 

You can show this letter to any of our friends, to each 
and all of whom I send fraternal greetings. 

July 2-jth (1888). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, You must not be too downcast 
because of my London views of the movement ; but you 
can easily see that from the time when the Parliamentary 
section in the League made up their minds to press the 
question to extremities the League was practically split. 
Of course I shall do all I can to prevent a formal split, and 
shall work my hardest whatever happens, either in the 
League or out of it ; nor is there any probability of the 
really active amongst the section of principle being dis- 
couraged or separating. But you will see that the whole 
of the work in London is now on our shoulders, and since 
we were but shorthanded before, you may imagine that it 
is hard work now. By the way, I am writing a paper on 
the policy of abstention, which I should like to read in an 
informal manner to Socialists only when I come your way. 

As to Commonweal, here are the hard facts : with the 
present circulation of say about 2800 we are losing ^4 per 
week, supposing the number sold are all paid for. There 
are monies owing to us of about 40, but about half that 
must be written off as bad, owing to a bad habit that those 
branches and individuals have got into of not sending up 
the money for the sales they made and accumulating a 



i 9 4 WILLIAM MORRIS 

debt, which now they cannot pay. Well, I already pay 
z a week to Commonweal (this 4 loss being in addition 
to that) and absolutely cannot pay the extra 4 : nor ought 
I to do so, as i\d. (three half-pence) a week from each 
member of the League would tide us over, and if that cannot 
be raised it is a sign that the League members don't care 
about Commonweal. 

Perhaps you will put these facts before our friends, who 
I am sure are anxious to do their best in the matter. You 
see when so very little more would save us, it does seem a pity 
to drop the only satisfactory English-written Socialist print. 

I shall be glad to hear from you as often as convenient. 

August zgth (1888). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, I was very glad to have news 
from you, and thank you for it. I wish I could give you 
as good news from London as you give us from Glasgow, 
but I consider we are in a poor way mostly. Our own 
branch is very good still and keeps up wonderfully ; I 
don't know that we increase in mere muster roll^ but we 
do in members who take an interest in the work, and we 
really are brisk. Elsewhere I can't say much for us, the 
few who take an interest are pig-headed and quarrelsome. 
The Sec. is (to speak plainly) a failure as such, though a 
very good fellow. The East End agitation is a failure ; 
the sale of Commonweal falls off, or rather has fallen off 
all round ; which of course was inevitable after the business 
of the Conference. 

This sounds very gloomy j but, after all, I doubt if we 
are worse than we were before ; a great deal of the excitement 
of our East End Leaguers was the result of indoor ' agitation, 
i.e. quarrelling amongst ourselves, and the Parliamentarians 
having gone off the excitement has gone with them, and the 
excited friends withal. Now all this does not discourage 
me simply because I have discounted it ; I have watched 
the men we are working with and know their weak points, 
and knew that this must happen. One or two of them 



APPENDIX 195 

are vainglorious humbugs ; a good many are men who, 
poor fellows, owing to their position cannot argue, and have 
only impulsive feelings based on no sort of logic, emotional 
or otherwise, and fall back when there is nothing exciting 
going on ; since they have never had any real grasp of the 
subject. Many also are so desperately poor that they 
cannot work much for us ; some one or two like your 
McLaren * have married a wife and therefore cannot come.' 
Some again are hot-headed ; some, like poor Lane, in bad 
health. With all this the worst of them are no worse 
than other people ; mostly they are better, and some very 
much better ; so that supposing we broke up the band, any 
new band we got together would be composed of just the 
same elements. Therefore the only thing is to be patient 
and try to weld together those that are work-worthy. 

Of course, the secession has given us a rough shake ; 
several of the seceders did fair work, and they bought and 
sold some Commonweal if not much. If any compromise 
had been possible between us and them I should have favoured 
it ; but it was not possible : the other side were determined 
to use us if they could, quite reckless if in the attempt they 
knocked the League to pieces. I ought to tell you, by the 
way, that the Norwich branch, which at one time showed 
signs of dissolution, has got on its legs again, and is really 
both numerous and enthusiastic. So you may depend upon 
it that we shall not drop all to pieces. We are quite deter- 
mined here at Hammersmith to keep things going if no one 
else will. We must never forget amongst other things 
that there are always times of reflex in these movements, 
and all politics are very dull at present owing largely to 
the deadlock in the Irish question, and the feeling among 
persons really progressive that we are being played upon 
by politicians for their benefit ; the end of the Irish 
question will, I feel sure, mark a step in revolution. Mean- 
time we have to stick to it and be patient, as I have no 
doubt you feel. 

As to your own affairs : cannot you manufacture 



196 WILLIAM MORRIS 

speakers, deliberately inaugurate a speakers' class ? Common- 
weal : I admit that it has been dull lately, and for the reasons 
you stated. You see what we want here is, once more, 
three or four able writers that we can depend upon ; we 
are obliged to shove in all sorts of twaddle from time to time 
to fill up such is unpaid journalism, which, however, 
is not so bad as paid ditto. I shall be very glad to have 
Mavor's help. Kindly give me his present address. As for 
your article, which I hurried you so for : mere printers' con- 
sideration joined with the fact that it had not to do with passing 
events kept it back. We are going to get together a meeting 
of all our London speakers to see if we can shove the thing 
on a bit here. I am more and more sure that what we want 
at present is not mere numbers but a good band of steady 
workers who will stick to it and who understand the sub- 
ject only we want a good many of them. 

Once more I am much encouraged by your letter, and 
am not in the least inclined to give in. 

Good luck all round. 

December i$th (1888). 

DEAR GLASIER, Thank you for the paper, which I 
will read when it is in type. I by no means have Arnold's 
book of Essays, not always finding them easy to read. I am 
sorry I can't help you in the matter. I was very sorry to 
hear the sad private news of your last letter. 1 

The Anarchist element in us seem determined to drive 
things to extremity, and break us up if we do not declare 
for Anarchy, which I for one will not do. On the other 
hand the ' Moderates,' Mrs. Besant and Co., by their 
foolish wooden attacks on us are taking away from the 
reasonable party inside (if alas ! we must use the word * party') 
all chance of holding things together. The only thing 
to be done is to go on steadily trying to strengthen the local 
bodies. Hammersmith remains satisfactory and is increasing 
in solid strength, especially in speakers. But it is getting 

1 The death of my eldest sister, whom he had met. 



APPENDIX 197 

into bad odour with some of our fiercer friends, I think 
principally because it tacitly and instinctively tries to keep 
up the first idea of the League, the making of genuine con- 
vinced Socialists without reference to passing exigencies 
of tactics, whether they take the form of attacking (and 
running away from) the police in the streets or running 
a candidate for the school board. I find that living in this 
element is getting work rather too heavy for me. It is 
lamentable that Socialists will make things hard for their 
comrades. All this I ask you to keep strictly private and 
confidential, i.e. not to talk to others about it, as I don't 
want to discourage young members : but you are I think 
old enough in the movement to have discounted a good deal 
of it, and therefore will not be discouraged. All this after 
all is but one corner of the movement, which really taken as 
a whole and looked at from some way off is going on swim- 
mingly. Leatham wrote to me (not on a card) in much the 
same tone ; I am very glad he is so young and happy. I 
shall be glad of your articles in any case. I have an idea that 
the weekly might be resuscitated if we are careful, even if we 
drop it now. I shall be glad to hear from you. Good luck 
all round. 

January 21 st, 1889. 

DEAR GLASIER, Your article seems all right, only 
'tis so abominably cacographical that I find it very difficult 
to read : also I think we had better have more of it before 
we begin to print. 1 Thanks for your explanation about 
the testimonial, though of course / did not want any explana- 
tion. 2 Now I am coming to Glasgow it seems to 
give two lectures on Art, and I had better give a Sunday one 

1 The article was never published. It was a long criticism 
of Belfort Bax's Ethics of the Family, etc. 

2 In consideration of the fact that I had been for a long time 
out of employment, the Glasgow branch of which I was secretary 
raised a ' testimonial ' for me which I accepted, but handed over 
to the funds of the branch. 



198 WILLIAM MORRIS 

for you, and see as much of the branch as I can during my 
stay : please arrange with Mavor. You understand that 
I would not have gone merely for the Art gammon and 
spinach ; but it was an opportunity of seeing you chaps 
free of expense. I have much to say to you. . . As to 
Commonweal I rather imagine that it will come to trying 
the four page sheet for a while, but I honestly confess to 
myself that I don't feel very sanguine about it. The truth 
must be faced, the Communists of the League are in a very 
weak position in the Socialist Party at present. We have 
been much damaged both by parliamentarians and Anarchists, 
and I don't think we are strong enough to run a paper ; 
although, numbers apart, there is something to be said 
for us. 

You see John Burns has got some of his desires 
rather him than me in the position ugh ! x 

May i ^th, 1889. 

DEAR GLASIER, Have you seen Grant Allen's article 
in the Contemporary ' Socialism and Individualism ' ? It 
is of little importance in itself : but as the manifesto of 
Herbert Spencer etc. against Herbert Spencer is of some 
interest. 

I suppose you have seen or read, or at least tried to read, 
* Looking Backward.' I had to on Saturday, having 
promised to lecture on it. Thank you, I wouldn't care to 
live in such a cockney paradise as he imagines. 

I hope to hear from you soon that you are getting on. 

August i$th (1889). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Thanks for the letter, the business 
transaction does not seem likely to call me to Glasgow just 
yet : so I shall put off my visit if I can till I can be of most 
use to the propaganda up there. As to the Scottish Land 
and Labour League, I think one may assume that the 

1 Elected as Liberal-Labour member on the London County 
Council. 



APPENDIX 199 

Parliamentary Party r have had something to do with the 
business, though it may not be so. But I don't think 'tis 
worth much bothering oneself about ; because if they will 
be parliamentary, names will neither keep them back nor 
thrust them forward. If it were possible I for one part 
should be only too glad to see the whole quarrel drop, on 
the grounds of letting each branch do as it pleases as a branch. 
Because really the organisation of the League is, and always 
has been, so loose that if all the branches were merely 
affiliated bodies doing what they pleased within the necessary 
Socialist lines of attack on the monopoly of the means of 
production, pushing the sale of the paper, and communi- 
cating often with the Council (which would then be only 
a body for such intercourse), we should not be worse off 
than we have been all along, and to boot might escape these 
weary squabbles. 

So on the whole, the least said soonest mended on that 
point. 

As to the Commonweal I by no means feel overwhelmed 
at the prospect of its again becoming a monthly. It sold 
well under those conditions before, and had some good 
articles in it ; and that might be so again. True it would 
be a defeat ; but we must get used to such trifles as defeats, 
and refuse to be discouraged by them. Indeed, I am an 
old hand at that game, my life having been passed in being 
defeated ; as surely every man's life must be who finds 
himself forced into a position of being a little ahead of the 
average in his aspirations. 

There is perhaps somewhat of a slack in the direct 
propaganda at present ; but the big world is going on at 
a great rate to my mind towards the change, and I am sure 
both that steady preachment of even a dozen men (as in 
the Christian Legend) will make steady progress for the 
cause, and also that those who have really learned Socialism 
can never any more be persuaded that water runs uphill 
of itself. And you and a few men cannot be prevented 
from preaching by anything external to themselves. How- 



200 WILLIAM MORRIS 

ever, I am getting a little more hopeful of keeping the 
League together on something like its present terms, and 
we ought to try to do all we can, because a new start would 
be pleasant enough at first ; but who shall ensure us against 
getting into the selfsame difficulties again, as we began, 
as we certainly should, to increase in numbers ? 

Tuesday Morning. 

We held our London members' meeting last night as 
advertised in C. and though the attendance was not good, 
I think they showed signs of renewed life ; we are going 
to open two new stations, hold concert for benefit of paper 
(by the way, couldn't you do something in this line), send 
out a flying missionary column on Saturdays beginning next 
Saturday. You see the London workmen are blas6 of 
politics, and have none of the solidarity which the workmen 
of big industries have. On the other hand, London is a 
big place, and there are all sorts of people in it, and we ought 
to be able to get some of the good 'uns. 

October yd (1889). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, I ask your pardon for not writ- 
ing to you before. The fact is I don't like writing letters. 
I could almost wish sometimes that the art of writing had 
not been invented at any rate, I wish the postmen would 
strike, on all grounds. Now, as to business. Yes, I will 
come if you will get me an audience ; but I expect that you 
will have to put up with a rough lecture enough as I have 
not time for a literary production. Crane, I have no doubt, 
would do what he could ; so would Walker, but he is no 
speaker. C. Sanderson might be able to help : but I doubt 
if he would speak in the open air. You had better arrange 
with Glasse about my day in Glasgow, always remembering 
that I shall want to go South to the pock-pudding as soon 
as I can ; for my business needs me sorely. 

With best wishes, even for the wicked of your branch, 
let alone the good like yourself. 



APPENDIX 201 

March igth (1890). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, I have been a long time answering 
your letter : need I make any excuses ? Thank you for 
your kind estimate of my last work ; I am truly glad that 
it pleases you. It is not popular, but I think some people 
read it and like it. As to the movement, between you and 
me the League don't get on except like a cow's tail, 
downwards. Up here there is now a great deal of quarrelling 
(in which I take no part), the basis of which is that some of 
them want the paper made * more revolutionary,' i.e. they 
want to write the articles themselves (which they can't do), 
and to do a little blood and thunder without any meaning, 
which might get me into trouble but couldn't hurt them. 
In all this there is no great harm (and no malice) if we were 
flourishing ; but we are not. I am now paying for the 
League (including paper) at the rate of 500 a year, and 
I cannot stand it ; at Whitsuntide I must withdraw half 
of that, whatever may happen : which will probably be the 
end of Commonweal, followed by the practical end of the 
League. A little while ago this would have seemed very 
terrible, but it does not trouble me much now. Socialism 
is spreading, I suppose on the only lines on which it could 
spread, and the League is moribund simply because we are 
outside those lines, as I for one must always be. But I shall 
be able to do just as much work in the movement when the 
League is gone as I do now. The main cause of the failure 
(which was obvious at least two years ago) is that you cannot 
keep a body together without giving it something to do in 
the present, and now, since people will willingly listen to 
Socialist doctrine, our rank and file have nothing to do. 
But of course you know more about all this than I can 
tell you. Meantime, it is a matter of course that I shall 
do what I can to put off the evil day for C'weal, and I 
am sure you will help. Try to make arrangements to 
come up at Whitsuntide ; I will find you quarters. 
This letter is hurried and rough ; so please keep it to 
yourself. 



202 WILLIAM MORRIS 

April 6th (1890). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Thanks for your letters ; you 
know I am a bad correspondent. 

I heard of last year at Dundee, and they said then 

he was damaging them much. I saw the carl at Edinburgh 
more than once ; a good speaker (sometimes drunk, however 
once notably so at one of my meetings), a plausible dog, an 
extractor of money in small sums by dint of diplomacy 
in short, a statesman lacking the larger opportunities. 

Commonweal appears to have discovered the widow's 
cruse ; for it goes on buying and selling, and living on 
the loss quite triumphantly. The (genuine) sale is a little 
going up, and I think we shall be able to keep it going 
through the year. Kitz is by no means a bad sec. in that 
respect. 

Otherwise I can't say that I call the League prospects 
good. Outside the Hammersmith branch the active (?) 
members in London mostly consider themselves Anarchists, 
but don't know anything about Socialism and go about ranting 
revolution in the streets, which is about as likely to happen 
in our time as the conversion of Englishmen from stupidity 
to quickwittedness. A great deal of our trouble comes from 

Messrs. D and M , who have been rather clever at 

pulling us to pieces, but could do nothing towards building 
up even their own humbugging self-seeking party. 

Now I must do notes for Gweal. I don't like the job, 
as I have a new book on hand which amuses me vastly. 

October ^lh (1890). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, As I was away from Hammer- 
smith when your letter came, I did not see the ' Laird of 
Logan ' till yesterday, for they did not send it on. Thank 
you very much for thinking of me and sending it. It has 
a queer old-fashioned look about it which would seem to 
make it amusing, but I have only had time to look at it. 

I have been down at Kelmscott (where Ellen vanished, 
you know) off and on for some weeks now, but London has 



APPENDIX 203 

begun to collar me, and next week I shall be there j and shall 
try to be a little more virtuous about propaganda work. 
In truth I have not been very well (am all right again now) 
and did really need a rest. Not that it was not full of work 
though. 

I shall now presently begin to touch up * N. from N.' 
[ ( News from Nowhere 'J for its book form, and will publish 
for a shilling. It has amused me very much writing it ; 
but, you may depend upon it, it won't sell. This, of course, 
is my own fault or my own misfortune. 

As to League affairs : I have really been a good bit 
out of them. I don't think there is much life in it anywhere 
except at our branch, which so far is really satisfactory. 
Sometimes feel rather sick of things in general. The 
humbug which floats to the top in all branches of intelligence 
is such a damned greasy pot-scum. 

But I must not get to mere railing. Good luck. 

December tfh (1890). 
[NOTE. This is private. I mean the very words are.] 

DEAR GLASIER, I have seen your letter to Walker 
anent the League and the H. Society, and am thinking that 
perhaps you are thinking I owe you an apology or at least 
an explanation, so here it is ; I hope not a long one. In 
the first place I did not write to you before because I wanted 
to avoid all appearance of plotting or colloguing. So much 
for my apparent neglect of you. As to the event itself : 
there is really little to say beyond the circular (sent only to 
the branches and the Council). The whole thing lies in 
this, that, as of course you noticed in the last conference, 
there were two parties in the League, the old Communist 
one with which it began, and the Anarchist. Now suppos- 
ing these two parties remaining in the League, each must 
necessarily try to use the other for purposes which it did 
not approve of. Hence constant quarrel ; one party alwavs 
attacking the other instead of the common enemy. I have 



204 WILLIAM MORRIS 

gone through this, as you will know, before, and I am 
determined never to stand it again. As soon as there are 
two parties in any body I am in then out I go. Yet you 
should know that the H. Branch would have gone out six 
months ago if it had not been for respect of my sentiments ; 
they have been very discontented for a long while. As 
to detail : please understand the H.B., though as numerous 
as all the rest of the League I think, had no power on the 
Council ; if we had stayed in and fought the matter we 
should have been outvoted every time by at least 8 to 3, 
so what was the use of our being there ? Something I 
might have done in keeping Commonweal rational, but only 
by threatening withdrawal of supplies : such a * censorship 
of the piper ' would be too odious for me to endure. And 
again what would have been the use since I was in any case 
going to withdraw my subsidy at the end of the year, as I 
now have done, paying all up to the end ? Nay, supposing 
I had gone on with that subsidy, it would not have saved the 
paper, which was making a fresh deficit every week. I must 
have doubled it, as I did the early part of the year up to the 
Conference in fact. 

Well, now, what were we to do ? Go once a week to 
a private hell to squabble causelessly with men that after all 
we like ? Or withdraw from the Council ? That would 
have been only a covert and less honest way of leaving the 
League, and would have hampered both them and us. Call 
a general conference ? To what end ? What more could 
we discover at it than that we didn't agree ? Besides, these 
conferences are really bogus affairs. 

In short, my dear boy, whenever you want to get rid 
of me you need never put on your boots. I never wait to 
be kicked downstairs. Don't misunderstand the affair : we 
have borne with it all a long time ; and at last have gone 
somewhat suddenly. For my part I foresaw all this when 
we allowed the Bloomsbury branch to be expelled. They 

deserved it, for it was that pig of a D who began it all ; 

but they being out, it was certain that the Anarchists would 



APPENDIX 205 

get the upper hand. I rather wonder at your being surprised. 
My article, following on Nicol's folly, should have told you 
what was up. I meant it as a * Farewell.' It was, and was 
meant to be, directly opposed to anything the Anarchist 
side would want to say or do. If I had remained in the 
League after that I must have attacked their position per- 
sistently. And why should I ? I shouldn't have converted 
them. 

You understand, I don't want to influence your action 
up there : none of us do. Your position is different from 
ours ; because you are so far away that you cannot take any 
part in the management ; whereas, in my judgment, we must 
as long as we profess to belong. 

We have no wish to proselytise amongst the League 
branches. Anyone can join us who pleases, League or no 
League ; but we don't ask them. And I have no doubt 
that we shall be just as good friends with you whatever 
you do. 

Personally, I must tell you that I feel twice the man 
since I have spoken out. I dread a quarrel above all things, 
and I have had this one on my mind for a year or more. 
But I am glad it is over at last ; for in good truth I would 
almost as soon join a White Rose Society as an Anarchist 
one ; such nonsense as I deem the latter. 

You will have our manifesto soon ; and I know you 
will agree with it, as it will disclaim both Parliamentarianism 
and Anarchism. 

To change the subject : I am going to send you my 
new translation-book to-morrow. * News from Nowhere ' 
is already printed in America, and I am going to print it 
here for a shilling : the Yank, I fancy, is a dollar. 

Well, goodbye, and don't be downcast, because we have 
been driven to admit plain facts. It has been the curse of 
our movement that we would lie to ourselves about our 
progress and victories and the like. Aha ! What do you 
think of the awakened conscience of Mrs. Grundy re Mr. 
Parnell ? Ain't it delicious ? as Miss Mowcher says. 



206 WILLIAM MORRIS 

December i6th (1890). 

MY DEAR GLASIER, Thanks for your letter ; I 
might say so much, that at present I will say little : In the 
first place I agree with you almost wholly, including Parnell. 
In the second, I am not going to retire. In the third, we 
mustn't trouble ourselves about the babble of the press. 
In the fourth, we Hammersmith' ers will, I have no doubt, 
be eager to join in any arrangement which would bring 
us together. Lastly, as to the paper, I don't like papers ; 
and we have after a very long experiment found out that 
a sectional paper cannot be run. Two things we might do 
or might be done. First, we might set up a penny monthly 
merely as a means of communication. Second, a general 
Socialist paper might be started to include all sections. As 
to the first, I would do nothing in it as long as a monthly 
Commonweal exists ; I would rather support that if I could. 
As to the second, it looks promising ; but you, of course, 
know the difficulties. Who is to be editor ? How will it 
work under the jealousies of the different sections ? Are 
the Anarchists to be in it ? etc., etc. Pamphlets are good : 
won't you write us one ? For the rest, speaking and lectur- 
ing as much as sickened human nature can bear are the only 
things as far as I can see. 

I am in hopes that I may manage to come your way in 
the Spring and then we can talk these matters more at length, 
and I could tell you things in speaking which in writing 
slip out of the head. I want to see Glasse, and the Aber- 
deen'ers also ; only, of course, I shall avoid any influencing 
the League branches. 

March gth, 1892. 

MY DEAR GLASIER, I have been trying to find time 
to write a long letter to you ; but, seeing that I have not 
found the time for that, I had better write a short one at 
once. 

Thanks very much for your last letter. As to the 
subjects of it I had perhaps better get over the disagreeable 



APPENDIX 207 

part of them, and say that it does not seem as if I shall be 
able to come to you this spring, though I should very much 
like to do so. If I possibly can come I will turn the matter 
over. Isn't autumn a possible time ? 

For the rest, I quite agree with your views as to the 
present position, and so I am sure do all here. I sometimes 
have a vision of a real Socialist Party at once united and 
free. Is it possible ? Here in London it might be done, 
I think, but the S.D.F. stands in the way. Although the 
individual members are good fellows enough as far as I have 
met them, the society has got a sort of pedantic tone of 
arrogance and lack of generosity, which is disgusting and 
does disgust both Socialists and Non-Soc. Their last feat 
in trying to spoil the Chelsea election for the L.C.C., 
although they had no programme better than theirs, was a 
wretched piece of tactics ; and now the Anti-Soc., both 
Whigs and Tories, go about saying that the Chelsea Socialists 
are only 170. Whereas that means nothing more than the 
branch of the S.D.F. 

What do you think of the said L.C.C. election ? I am 
pleased on the whole. It is certainly the result of the 
Socialist movement, and is a Labour victory, as the afiair 
was worked by the Socialist and Labour people. Of course 
I don't think that much will come of it directly ; but I do 
think it shows a great advance. Item, the L.C.C. so far 
has to my experience shown itself an amazing improvement 
on the old red-tape public bodies : the antiscrape 1 has on 
three separate occasions had deputations to them and has 
been received in a human point of view ; arguments listened 
to and weighed, and opinion changed in consequence. 
This for a public body is certainly wonderful. Of course, 
I don't think much of gas and water Socialism, or indeed of 
any mere mechanical accessories to Socialism ; but I can see 
that the spirit of the thing is bettering, and in spite of all 
disappointments I am very hopeful. 

1 Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. 



2o8 WILLIAM MORRIS 

I send by this post a copy of the last song book : you 
will find some of the old well-worn fellows amongst them. 

Well, I hope we shall meet somehow. Walker (by the 
way) is going to Scotland at the end of this week. He will 
tell you all the news. 

Consider about the autumn and tell me. Meantime, 
Good Luck. 



Printed by SPOTTISWOODE, BALLANTYNE < Co. LTD. 
Colchester, London & Eton, England 



Glasier, John Bruce 

5033 William Morris and the early 
G5 days 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

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